On August 6, 1939, the Harlingen, Texas Valley Morning Star read “Donat Stars In New Film” followed by the sub heading ‘Goodbye Mr. Chips” in Mercedes, Texas. The article went on to describe the latest film of popular leading man Robert Donat. Based on the James Hilton novel of the same name, the film tells the story of the life and teaching career of Charles Edward Chipping, a Latin teacher at a British boys’ school. Donat’s character falls for and marries a beautiful and flashy young woman named Katherine, played by actress Greer Garson in her debut performance. Revealed in a series of flashbacks, the film portrays the events in Chipping’s life and the individuals who were part of it. Donat would go on to win an Oscar for Best Actor. The film was the first major role in the long and successful career of Garson. She was also nominated for an Oscar that year, but the award went instead to Vivian Leigh for her performance in “Gone With The Wind.”
Category Archives: entertainers
Fess Elisha Parker, Jr. was born on August 16, 1924 in Fort Worth, Texas to Fess Parker, Sr. and Mackie Allen Parker. His father had been born in California, but his mother was born in Texas. His paternal grandparents Otis L. and Cora Lightfoot Parker had been a farming family in Comanche County, Texas and both are buried there. Fess grew up in San Angelo and was a multi sport athlete there. He graduated from San Angelo High School in 1939 and did a hitch in the United States Navy before coming back to Texas and enrolling at Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene in 1943.
Debbie (Mary Frances) Reynolds was born April 1, 1932 in El Paso, Texas to Raymond Francis and Maxine N. Harmon Reynolds. Raymond had been born in 1903 in Whitewright, Grayson County, Texas. His father was a rural school teacher in 1910. By 1920, Raymond’s father was working in the Post Office and the family lived in Dallas. As of 1930, Raymond and Maxine had married and were living with Maxine’s family in El Paso. Raymond was working as a carpenter for a railroad company. That same year, their eldest son William Owen Reynolds was born to Raymond and Maxine, followed by Mary Frances (likely named for Raymond’s sister) in 1932. Raymond lost his job in Texas during the Depression. Reynolds was not embarrassed by her humble upbringing. She would say of their life in El Paso that her mother took in washing and that they always had plenty to eat, even if her father had to go out in the desert and shoot rabbits. By 1940, the new family had moved to Burbank, California where Raymond was working as a “tinder man” for Southern Pacific.
Buck Owens was born Alvis Edgar Owens, Jr. to Alvis Edgar and Macie Owens in Sherman, Texas in 1929. He is said to have given himself the nickname of Buck after his favorite mule (alternately said to be a donkey or a horse in different accounts) when he was young. His father, Alvis Edgar, Sr., was a sharecropping farmer in Grayson County, Texas. In 1937, the family moved west to Arizona. The family legend is that their trailer broke down near Phoenix, Arizona where they had other relatives, so they elected to settle there. Similar to the stories of many other musical artists, Buck’s mother sang and played the piano at their home and in church. Buck learned to play the guitar, mandolin and other instruments when he was a youth. He dropped out of school at age thirteen to help the family survive and did all sorts of jobs to raise money. As a young man, Buck began performing in honky-tonks to earn his living. When he was about twenty, he married his first wife, the former Bonnie Campbell, a singer in a band both she and Buck played in called Mac and the Skillet Lickers. Buck and Bonnie eventually moved to Bakersfield, California where Buck began to play around town and in the surrounding area. Buck and Bonnie would remain married for about five years. He was married three more times.
The actress Irene Ryan was born Jesse Irene Noblitt on October 17, 1902 to James Merritt and Catherine J. McSharry Noblitt while her family was living in El Paso, Texas. James was stationed at Fort Bliss and the family did not remain in Texas long, but El Paso has always claimed Irene. The Noblitts lived off the base on Franklin Street near downtown. Irene recounted that she was born at home. James was a sergeant in the United States Army and soon after she was born, they moved to California. Irene began entertaining when she was a teenager and recalled winning a talent contest when she was eleven years old. When she was nineteen, she married actor Tim Ryan. The couple appeared as Ryan and Noblette in vaudeville until that venue declined. After this, the couple appeared on radio as Tim and Irene. Ryan was a character actor who appeared in many films over the years, including From Here to Eternity (1953). The couple was married for about 16 years, and had no children. Ryan died in 1956 of a heart attack.