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(Courtesy of Belinda Kirkhuff)

Above, an autographed photo from Mary Lee given to supporting actor Jack 'Pappy' Kirk.

(Courtesy of Ed Phillips)
Mary Lee

Full name: Mary Lee Wooters

1924 - 1996

Mary Lee was born in Centralia, Illinois on October 24, 1924.

In the late 1930s, she was singing with the Ted Weems orchestra, and that's where the brass at Republic Pictures saw her and became interested.

Her first screen appearance was in NANCY DREW ... REPORTER (Warners, 1939). Her first B western was the Gene Autry SOUTH OF THE BORDER (Republic, 1939), and she appeared with Autry in a total of nine oaters released during 1939 - 1941. In eight of the nine, Mary portrayed a young teenager named "Patsy" ... who was always bursting into song ... and always getting into trouble. In six of those Autrys, June Storey was the heroine.

When Gene went into the service for World War II duty, Mary Lee appeared in two 1944 Roy Rogers and Dale Evans westerns.

She was hired by Republic to Term Player Contract(s) which ran from June 27, 1940 through February 21, 1945. During that period, Republic gave her the starring role in a few musicals such as BARNYARD FOLLIES (Republic, 1940), SHANTYTOWN (Republic, 1943) and NOBODY'S DARLING (Republic, 1943). She retired around 1945.

I do have a photo somewhere of a very young Mary Lee, circa 1937, with the Ted Weems Orchestra. Also in the photo are Weem's other vocalists, Perry Como and Marvell Maxwell (who became a blonde, changed her name to Marilyn Maxwell, and did movies).

I also have a newspaper article which mentions nineteen year old Mary Lee marrying First Sgt. Harry Banan, Jr. (1918-1990) of Haverhill, Massachusetts on November 12, 1943 at the Hollywood Christian Church. Banan had just returned from duty on Guadalcanal.

Charlie Dresser sent me a September, 1943 newspaper article which mentions that WAC Corporal Vera Wooters, the older sister of Mary Lee, had been assigned to the Chicago recruiting office. And prior to her WAC enlistment, Vera traveled as the companion and teacher to Mary Lee when she was a singer with the Ted Weems Orchestra. Later, Vera was secretary to Gene Autry for three years.

You may want to go to the In Search Of ... page on the Old Corral and check the California Death Records database.  There you will find a record for: Mary Lee Banan, born 10/24/1924 in Illinois, Mother's maiden name of Telford, Father's last name of Wooters, and she passed away on 6/6/1996. There is a corresponding record in the Social Security Death Index (SSDI).

Lila Ashear and Ralph Clouse did some sleuthing, and Ralph wound up visiting the City Recorder's Office and transcribed information from the death certificate:

  • Mary Lee Banan was born 10/24/1924 in Illinois.
  • Her father was Louie Ellis Wooters (born in Illinois) and her mother was Lela Mrytle Telford (born in Illinois).
  • She passed away on 6/6/1996 at her residence in Sacramento, California.
  • She was a widow; she had a 12 year education; worked as an Account Teller for Bank of America for 15 years.
  • She is interred at East Lawn, Sierra Hills Cemetery in Sacramento, California.

  Although some of the data is incomplete or inaccurate, the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) has information on Mary Lee:

Find A Grave website has a picture of the grave marker for Mary Lee Banan and her husband Harry Banan at Sierra Hills Memorial Park, Sacramento, California:

Mary Lee was one of many Hollywood kids that attended the Mar-Ken School in Sherman Oaks, California. Other child and teen stars included Jane Withers, Lon McCallister, Jimmy Lydon and Jackie Moran. Mary graduated in 1942 (along with Gloria DeHaven). You'll find a couple of yearbook photos of her at Alan Simon's Mar-Ken website:
Mary Lee was the 1941 secretary of the Mar-Ken Student Body Council and this webpage includes a photo:

There's a great CD out containing actual song tracks from many of the Gene Autry films in which Mary Lee appeared. More about the CD at the official Gene Autry website:

(Courtesy of Belinda Kirkhuff)
June Storey

Full name: Mary June Storey

1918 - 1991

June Storey was born in Toronto, Canada, but her family moved to Connecticut and then to California when she was a youngster.  She was signed to a contract at Fox in the mid 1930s, but no major screen work resulted.  Storey got a release from Fox and wound up as the leading lady in ten of Gene Autry's 1939-1940 films, including SOUTH OF THE BORDER (Republic, 1939), COLORADO SUNSET (Republic, 1939), and BLUE MONTANA SKIES (Republic, 1939).

Her term player contract(s) at Republic ran from April, 1939 through October, 1940. The October 2, 1940 issue of Variety reported that Republic Pictures had signed Smiley Burnette for another one year contract and that "... June Storey, aiming to get away from sagebrush pictures, terminated her Republic pact by mutual agreement."

After her stay at Republic, Storey did occasional film roles during the 1940s and that included another western heroine role in SONG OF THE PRAIRIE (Columbia, 1945) which starred Ken Curtis (who later became "Festus" on TV's GUNSMOKE).

She was married twice, the first to an Oregon rancher and later to Lincoln Clark, and they settled in Vista, California. During those later years, she had a son and daughter ... June became a U.S. citizen ... there was a vehicle accident in 1950 in which she was seriously injured, almost killed ... she went to college and became a nurse.

June Storey passed away on December 18, 1991 from cancer.

  Although some of the data is incomplete or inaccurate, the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) has information on June Storey:

Find A Grave website has a photo of the marker for June Storey who is interred at Pacific View Memorial Park, Corona del Mar, Orange County, California:

(From Old Corral image collection)

Above - Gene strums his guitar and serenades pretty June Storey, while the original Champion looks on.

(Courtesy of Bobby J. Copeland)

Above - June Storey (center) with Bobby and Joan Copeland at the 1989 Knoxville Festival.

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