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(Courtesy of Les Adams)
Verna Hillie

Full name:
Verna Dolores Hillie

1914 - 1997



(Old Corral collection)

Verna Hillie - 1934 and about 20 years old in a screen capture from John Wayne's THE TRAIL BEYOND (Lone Star/Monogram, 1934).

Michigan born Verna Hillie only did about fifteen films, and is best remembered as the leading lady to Ken Maynard in the cliffhanger MYSTERY MOUNTAIN (Mascot, 1934).

At the time of the 1920 and 1930 census, the Hillie family lived in Detroit, Michigan and father Edward worked for the auto industry. However, biographies on Verna have her birth place as Hancock, Michigan which is over 500 miles north of Detroit.

The story goes that her mother sent her photo to Paramount who was running a contest in search of a new face to portray the "Panther Woman" in ISLAND OF LOST SOULS (1932). Verna, along with three other starlet finalists, competed for the role (the others were Lona Andre, Gail Patrick and Kathleen Burke and Burke won the part). But Verna was placed under a Paramount contract:

From the February 27, 1933 Hollywood Reporter tradepaper: "Verna Hillie, finalist in the Paramount Panther Woman contest who was given a trial contract by the studio, gets a term ticket with the company." (term ticket meaning a term player contract.)

During her short stay at Paramount, she was the female lead in a couple westerns, UNDER THE TONTO RIM (Paramount, 1933) with Stuart Erwin and MAN OF THE FOREST (Paramount, 1933) with Randolph Scott and Harry Carey, Sr.

She freelanced after leaving Paramount. In addition to Maynard's MYSTERY MOUNTAIN (Mascot, 1934), she was the heroine in a pair of B oaters with John Wayne, THE TRAIL BEYOND (Lone Star/Monogram, 1934) and THE STAR PACKER (Lone Star/Monogram, 1934). Then came a brief contract period at Universal.

She tied the knot with radio performer/writer Frank Gill Jr. in 1933 and they married, divorced, re-married ... and the pairing lasted until 1951 or so. The Gills were in New York City circa 1935 and Verna did a Broadway play. In 1937, they were back in California and daughters Pamela (born 1937) and Kathreen (born 1940) were born. Some sources mention "Kelly" as the second daughter. That may be a nickname for Kathreen. First daughter Pamela (Gill) Lincoln did some 1960s and 1970s films and TV and was married to actor Darryl Hickman for over twenty years.

Verna retired from the movie business and concentrated on her family.

In 1952, she married television executive and director Richard Linkroum and was Vice President, Secretary and Treasurer of Linkroum's TV production company which was headquartered in New York City. They divorced in 1961 or 1962.

Buck Rainey, in his book Sweethearts of the Sage (McFarland, 1992), had details on Verna. Paramount did not renew her contract due to a medical problem - she had Bell's Palsy (facial paralysis) but that cleared after a few months. After her divorce from Linkroum, she did patient relations, recruitment and volunteer work at New York Medical College. And in the late 1970s - early 1980s, she was the U. S. representative for romance novelist Barbara Cartland.

Verna was a guest at the 1985 Memphis Film Festival.

Her brother Edward Hillie (1918-1975) was also involved in the entertainment industry, working mostly in television with Red Skelton, at Desilu, more.

83 year old Verna Hillie passed away October 6, 1997 in Fairfield, Connecticut.

  Although some of the data is incomplete or inaccurate, the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) has information on Verna Hillie: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0384978/

The Internet Broadway Database has one play listed for Verna Hillie - "Night of January 16" which ran from September, 1935 through April, 1936 at the Ambassador Theatre, New York City. There's some familiar names in the cast including Walter Pidgeon, Robert Shayne (Inspector Henderson on Superman), and B western character actress Sarah Padden: http://ibdb.com/person.php?id=45179

  The Internet Movie Database (IMDb) has information on Pamela (Gill) Lincoln: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0511131/

Jim Tipton's Find A Grave website has a page on Verna Hillie who passed away in Connecticut, but there is no information on her interment: http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=6691656



Above is a 1962 organization chart with Verna as Vice President, Secretary and Treasurer of hubby Dick Linkroum's television production company which was headquartered in New York City. This is from the 1962 Radio Annual and Television Year Book (available at the Internet Archive). Similar organization charts with Verna are in the 1961 and 1963 Radio Annuals.



(Courtesy of Les Adams)

L-to-R are Syd Saylor, Ken Maynard and Verna Hillie in a scene from the cliffhanger MYSTERY MOUNTAIN (Mascot, 1934).



(From Old Corral image collection)

L-to-R are Syd Saylor, Verna Hillie, Hal Taliaferro (Wally Wales), Ken Maynard, Jack Cheatham, Al Bridge and Jack Rockwell in the chapterplay, MYSTERY MOUNTAIN (Mascot, 1934). Bridge is in his typical position - getting a stern warning from the hero. This is somewhat typical of scene stills which are staged for the photographer. Thus, a photo is often different than what appears in the film. And that's the case with this image. This occurs at the beginning of Chapter 6 and Al Bridge is killed with a dart from the Rattler. While Taliaferro and Cheatham are in this production still, they do not appear in the actual scene in chapter 6.



(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Above - John Wayne, Verna Hillie and Noah Beery, Jr. in a scene from Wayne's THE TRAIL BEYOND (Lone Star/Monogram, 1934).


On the trail of Verna Hillie and family.
Family Search (free), Ancestry.com (subscription), and trade/fan magazines have more on Verna Hillie and family. Am still unclear on the number of marriages to first husband Frank Gill.

  • 1920 census summary and census takers worksheet - renting in Detroit, Michigan are 27 year old Edward Hilli [sic] (born Finland; occupation "Clerk - Auto??? Office"), his 24 year old wife Catherine (born Michigan), 5 year old daughter Verna (born Michigan), 1 year old son Edward (born Michigan), and two in-laws: https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MZW8-WSX
  • 1930 census summary and census takers worksheet - renting in Detroit, Michigan are 37 year old Edward Hille [sic] (born Finland; occupation "Laborer - Auto Factory"), his 34 year old wife Catherine (born Michigan), 15 year old daughter Verna (born Michigan), and 11 year old son Edward (born Michigan): https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:X794-VWN
  • Ancestry.com had the June, 1930 Centralite school yearbook from Central High School, Detroit, Michigan with info and photo of graduating senior Verna Dolores Hillie. And Verna has dark hair ... she's not a blonde.
  • February, 1934 issue of Modern Screen magazine noted that "Verna Hillie, one of Paramount's 'Panther' women, recently married Frank Gill, Jr., radio announcer."
  • March 27, 1935 Variety: "Verna Hillie, screen player, granted divorce from Frank Gill, radio writer, in Los Angeles."
  • July, 1935 Radio Mirror magazine: "FRANK GILL, JR., and Verna Dolores Hillie Gill ... though married twice (Tijuana, Mexico and Hollywood) have come to the parting of the ways."
  • August-September, 1936 passenger list for the cruise ship S. S. Prince Henry sailing from/to New York City - passengers included 28 year old Frank Gill (born 1907 in Quincy, Illinois) and 22 year old Verna Gill (born 1914 in Hancock, Michigan). Their home address was on 96th Street in New York City: https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33S7-95FY-FFG?mode=g&i=880&cc=1923888
  • California Birth Index for Pamela Gill, born June 14, 1937 in the Los Angeles area, and mother's maiden name was Hillie: https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:V2Q6-6TQ
  • 1940 census summary and census takers worksheet - 26 year old Verna Gill (born Michigan), 32 year old husband Frank Gill (born Illinois), 3 year old daughter Pamela (born California) and a child's nurse and cook reside in Los Angeles. Frank Gill's occupation is "Writer - Radio", and in 1939, he worked 39 weeks and earned $5000.00. No occupation or earnings are listed for Verna: https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:K9CP-78H
  • California Birth Index for Kathreen Gill, born June 17, 1940 in the Los Angeles area, and mother's maiden name was Hillie: https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:V2Q5-Y1B
  • Ancestry.com had the California Marriage Index for Richard L. Linkroum to Verna D. Gill / Verna D. Hillie on March 15, 1952.
  • March 31, 1952 issue of Broadcasting magazine: "DICK LINKROUM, director, CBS-TV Alan Young Show and Jack Benny Show ... married Verna Hillie Gill, film actress, March 16 (1952) in Hollywood."
  • Connecticut Death Index - 83 year old Verna Hillie was born May 5, 1914 in Michigan; was divorced; and she passed away October 6, 1997 in Fairfield, Connecticut: https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:VZ5W-KJ8

More on Verna's brother, Edward M. Hillie (1918-1975):

  • August 22, 1960 Broadcasting magazine: "Edward M. Hillie, for the past seven years a producer, director and production executive at Desilu, has been named studio manager ..." (of the Red Skelton studios)
  • January 23, 1961 Broadcasting magazine notes that Edward M. Hillie has been promoted to executive producer at the Skelton Studios (Red Skelton show)
  • California Death Index for Verna's brother, Edward M. Hillie. He was born November 3, 1918 in Michigan, and passed away July 1, 1975 in the Los Angeles area: https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:VPNJ-F9K

  The Internet Movie Database (IMDb) has more Verna's brother Edward Hillie and his television work in production management and assistant directing on episodes of I Spy, Joey Bishop Show, Andy Griffith show, Gomer Pyle, lots more: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0384977

More on Verna's first husband, Frank Joseph Gill, Jr. (1907-1970):

  In addition to extensive radio work, Frank Gill also wrote for movies and early television (the Gale Storm Show, Jackie Cooper's The People's Choice My Little Margie, more): http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0318602

Frank Gill also dabbled in Broadway plays. He and frequent collaborator George Carleton Brown were the co-author of the 1944 Broadway play 'School for Brides': https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/frank-gill-jr-5605

J. David Goldin's RadioGoldIndex website lists Gill in about fifty radio shows during the years 1933-1951. When you get to the site, click "Start Here", then select "Search By Artist", then select G, and then scroll down for Frank Gill, Jr. radio credits: http://radiogoldindex.com/

California Death Index for Frank J. Gill who was born December 17, 1907 in Illinois and passed away in the Los Angeles area on July 11, 1970: https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:VPHZ-N3S

More on Verna's second husband, Richard 'Dick' Linkroum (1915-2007):

  Richard 'Dick' Linkroum (1915-2007), directed episodes of TV's The Jack Benny program and Alan Young show, more. He also produced the 1960 Peter Pan special that starred Mary Martin and Cyril Ritchard: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0512955

Social Security Death Index (SSDI) for Richard Linkroum. He was born March 20, 1915 in New York and passed away August 20, 2007 in Wickenburg, Maricopa County, Arizona: https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:JGK6-6ZH



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