Arabella

honors

Christine Souter

September 20th, 1929 - November 8th, 2013


Our beloved friend and co-worker, Christine Souter

Christine graced our lives and these pages with her humor, her friendship, and her talents almost from its inception. She was a dear friend and confidante to this editor and, as copy coordinator, she kept us honest with her attention to detail, ferreting out wayward typos and mistaken dates and places. She is greatly missed.

Besides her beloved family, there were three men in her life...Gene Autry, Nelson Eddy and Steve Cochran. While we were able to cover two of them in past issues, Steve Cochran was still “in the hopper” when Christine suddenly left us. So, with her help, we will do that here.

Christine's name will remain on our staff listing supported by three of her many friends (Annie, Bernadette and Miriam) who we now call “Christine's Girls”. We also intend to remember this lovely lady in future issues by including her words, personal anecdotes and favorite quotes in a feature titled simply “ Christine”.

(Author's note) “ I know, dear friend, how you hated sugary or maudlin endings. I hope I got it right this time.”


Steve Cochran

1917 – 1965

Strikingly handsome and extremely talented, this film actor accidentally made some powerful enemies in Hollywood. You could hear doors closing all over town. By the time the powers-that-be realized their mistake...it was too late.

Robert Alexander Cochran was a Jack-of-all-trades. When acting roles were scarce, he kept himself in pocket money by taking any job available.... a cowpuncher on the range, a private policeman at Macy's in New York, a steam plant fireman near Del Monte, California. “Crime” only paid him in the movies!

Cochran was born May 25, 1917 in Eureka, California but grew up in Laramie, Wyoming. The eldest of two children Robert was named for his father, a lumberman by trade (he would pick up the name “Steve” later from a character in a play). Robert was tossed off his high school basketball team for trading practice time for girl time but he did hone his acting talents in the school plays. Basketball and acting were also part of Robert's college education at the University of Wyoming but, in 1937, he picked up his marbles and left to pursue acting on a bigger scale. After a brief stint with the Federal Theatre Project in Detroit, Robert headed west to try his luck in Hollywood. He found it was no easy task.


Steve Cochran with Virginia Mayo in “White Heat””

When he couldn't even get a screen test, Robert went on the road with little theater groups, touring stock companies, Shakespeare festivals and some very odd jobs. He adopted the name “Steve” from a character in “There's Always Juliet” a play by John Van Druten. For seven years, Steve waited and worked and finally, in 1943, he got a role in New York's Theater Guild production of Without Love. Producer Sam Goldwyn liked what he saw and picked up Steve's option. When the play finished touring in Los Angeles, Goldwyn cast him in Danny Kaye's The Wonder Man. Steve also got roles in Boston Blackie Booked on Suspicion (actually his film debut in 1945) and Boston Blackie's Rendevous. In Rendezvous Steve played a crazed killer who escaped from a mental hospital (an omen of roles to come). But his marriage to artist Florence Lockwood came apart along the way and they divorced in 1946. They had one daughter, Xandra but Steve's relationship with his little girl never seemed to get off the ground.

It was after "Wonder Man," that I met a man who would become a dear friend for all the rest of my life, and his life too, right up until he died. His name was Steve Cochran and I loved him. (Like a brother.) He was tall, and in spite of the fact that he photographed as if he was a really big man, he wasn't. Steve was a man with a slight frame, had unusually dark, deeply smoldering eyes, thick black eyebrows, black hair, and was often cast as a gangster or a rough, hard man. Steve was none of those things in real life. He was polite and sensitive, and very kind. But indeed, he was extremely sexy and women just couldn't get enough of him. I know there's been speculation over the years that I had an affair with Steve Cochran, but I didn't.” Virginia Mayo who co-starred with Cochran in six films.



“Boston Blackie Booked on Suspicion' with Chester Morris and George E. Stone

“Boston Blackie's Rendezvous” with Iris Adrian Caption

with Mayo and Dana Andrews in “Best Years of Our Lives”

1946 was a big year. Sam Goldwyn cast Cochran in two big money makers...The Kid from Brooklyn again with Danny Kaye and The Best Years of Our Lives (an Academy Award winner for Best Picture). Then Seymour Nebenzal of Nero Films gave Cochran his first film noir The Chase opposite Robert Cummings, Michele Morgan and Peter Lorre as Gino. Steve stole the picture with just one scene when he slapped a manicurist ( Shirley O'Hara) right off her stool without a blink of an eye. He also made another attempt at marriage, this time to actress Fay MacKenzie. That one didn't take either and lasted only two years. It seemed that his attraction to women and their attraction to him became his Achilles heel.


Faye Mckenzie


Faye and hubby Steve Cochran


..with frequent co-star Gene Autry

For the next two years Hollywood took a backseat to Broadway. Steve did only 2 films: Copacabana with Groucho Marx and Carmen Miranda (1947) and another Danny Kaye hit musical A Song is Born (1948) (again with Virginia Mayo) before heading east to appear with Mae West in the revival of Diamond Lil (and a torrid romance with the legendary star). When he returned to Tinseltown Cochran signed with Warner Bros. and was cast in his second film noir (and fourth with Virginia Mayo), the memorable White Heat (1949) with James Cagney as the crazed Cody Jarrett. Again Steve received excellent critical reviews.

Score one for Mae!

 

“Need a handsome bad guy....call Steve Cochran!” became the mantra in 1950. Steve's dark good looks made him a natural for gangster and boxer roles and he looked so good with his shirt off. Somehow the fact that he aced every role he took and had excellent critical reviews was somehow overlooked. In Dallas he played Bryant Marlowe, one of three brothers who viciously killed Gary Cooper's family during the Civil War. As George Legenza in Highway 301 Steve led a vicious gang of robbers known for “bumping off” women during their crime spree.

The many faces of Steve Cochran......


In Storm Warning opposite Ginger Rogers and Doris Day, he was Hank Rice, a Ku Klux Klansman involved in the murder of a reporter. When asked about why he took this role, Steve told the Saturday Evening Post “ As a youngster in Wyoming, I had seen the fiery crosses of the Ku Klux Klan burning near my home and even then I sensed their frightening menace. As Hank in this picture, I had the chance to show how basically shabby such demonstrations are...and the feeling that I might be making a small contribution toward racial tolerance.” But a romance with Doris Day made him another powerful enemy. Joan Crawford, who considered Steve her property at the time, never forgave him or Doris Day either.


Doris Day plus ...


Steve Cochran equals..


a very angry Joan Crawford

Steve ended 1950 with his third film noir The Damned Don't Cry. As gangster renegade Nick Prensa, his story is told in flashbacks after his murder involves socialite Joan Crawford in the unholy business. Dorothy Manners wrote in the Los Angeles Times: “Next to (Joan Crawford), Steve Cochran makes the best impression as the diamond in the rough who dares to break with the syndicate—and winds up just in the rough.”


with Ginger Rogers and Doris Day in “Storm Warning”


with Joan Crawford in”The Damned Don't Cry”

Christine ….
              (September 16, 2012)
                                   on the film “Raton Pass”

Dorothy, apparently none of the three leads....were too happy with the film. (Dennis) Morgan, who was a big star at WB throughout the 40s was on the down curve and only made a few films after this and then quietly retired. This was Steve Cochran's 5th film at WB and he was not happy at all about his roles. But it must have been far worse for Pat Neal who had been humiliated and scorned by Hollywood over her affair with Gary Cooper (who was too big a star to be hurt by any scandal). It was her last film in Hollywood for many years.

Raton Pass is a passable 50s style western with only its cast to really make it worthwhile. I wouldn't put it at the bottom of Steve's list but I only watched it once.


Take care, Chris

 

 

Cochran made two of his best pictures in 1951...as Peter Allendine in Jim Thorpe – All-American and as an inmate who leads a riot in Inside the Walls of Folsom Prison (Johnny Cash based his hit song on this film) But the 1950s also began Steve's bad news phase in Hollywood as well. A fight at his home involving professional boxer “Buddy” Wright on New Year's Day, 1952 eventually cost him $7,500 in damages. A reckless driving and evading arrest charge in October, 1953 ( the police had to chase him for five miles before firing a warning shot) also made the gossip columnists happy. Cochran claimed he was just showing off his new car.

But there were a lot of bad movies back there, too. Steve ended his contract with Warner Bros. with The Desert Song in 1953 *(again playing opposite Dennis Morgan) and started his own production company Robert Alexander Productions in 1955. “I had some pleasant assignments there....but the last few parts were so bad I had to get out. This producing-acting venture is my most exciting experience yet.” That same year Steve's good friend, writer Monty Pittman came up with a story that really interested him. Monty had written it as a possible vehicle for his step-daughter, child star Sherry Jackson. But Steve saw much more potential for a possible film where he could produce, direct and act as well. He bought it for RAP but was unable to raise the money to produce it. So he sold it to Republic Pictures with the proviso that he and Sherry would head up the cast. He even talked Ann Sheridan into playing opposite him. Ann demanded her salary up front when she learned Republic was unstable financially. She was right. Steve's bad luck held..Republic went bankrupt, there was no PR campaign and the film went out as a low-budget B movie. Steve lost his shirt. An article in the Hollywood Reporter blasted the studio with “Wake up, Republic. You have another Marty on your hands in Come Next Spring...or don't you care?” Apparently they didn't.

*See Issue #41 Gallery

 

scenes from “Come Next Spring” with Ann Sheridan, Richard Eyer and Sherry Jackson.

 

Christine...( January 3, 2010)


Hi, Dorothy. No, I haven't found another actor to sigh over, but came up with another bit of info on Steve. Seems he tried to make a film about Tom Mix in the late 50s---just couldn't swing it financially. He and a writer had a script but no studio was interested. There is a similarity in features, though and Mix's father was also a lumberman—Steve was a fan as a kid. I know Bruce Willis did a film in the 8o's playing Mix but I never saw it. I thought sure you had featured Mix in Arabella but no spotlight, so maybe an article. The man had 5 wives, made several million dollars, and was killed by a suitcase in an auto accident—guess you know that already –his being born in Driftwood, PA.


Christine

 

Arabella's answer:


I had hoped Steve was going to expose him but I guess not. I do hate destroying a boy's hero but..I did. Don't you remember? ** Just the first paragraph tells the tale..They call Mix the original “designer cowboy” and much of his story a fabrication. However, Christine, Tom Mix's father was a lumberman, he did get killed by a suitcase and, by gum, he did look a lot like Steve.

**See Issue #28... GossipyKate

 

 

Steve and some furry friends

Cochran went back to making feature films in 1956 with Slander starring Van Johnson and Ann Blyth at MGM. He also took on television with guest appearances in Playhouse of the Stars, Zane Grey Theater and Twilight Zone. Then, in October 1956, the gossip mavens had a field day when Steve received the first flying ticket issued by a police helicopter! It seems that our famous bad boy, who had been flying a plane for two years, was cited for dipping his wings over his Studio City home. He was fined $500, grounded 90 days and given a 30-day suspended jail sentence. So off he went to Europe to do Il Grido for Michelangelo Antonioni. Cochran costarred with Betsy Blair and Alida Valli. Filmed in Italy and released in Europe in 1957, the reviews were excellent but it was not seen in the United States until 1962.


with Antonini on location for “Il Grido”

with co-star Alida Valli

 

 

Christine ….(February 25, 2011)

 


Since we're all film buffs, does anyone know who this woman with Steve Cochran is? Ebay usually ids the back of the pic, but nothing on her. I assumed it might be an actress--looks like a premiere they're attending--late 50s is my guess. At first glance she reminded me of Jane Wyman, but most sellers would know her--you'd think.

Christine

 

Got it! someone on another group also thought it was Wyman, did a more thorough search than I did, and came up with Esperanza Wayne and Steve at, of all things, a premiere of a Jane Wyman film! Steve and Esparanza did date while she was divorcing Wayne. Wayne was not happy about them dating and it cost Steve dearly in Hollywood, and maybe a little beyond.

Wanna hear a story about Wayne, the WW2 Draft, Esperanza and Gail Russell? Of course not; we all know Wayne is a hero, a patriot, an Icon, and always a gentleman with the ladies.

Anyway, the id of the woman with Steve is solved. and darn if I didn't run across another tidbit--Esparanza and Gail Russell both died in 1961--Gail was 36, Esperanza was 35. Both died of heart attacks. Dorothy, does this sound like a mystery to you?
nah, just a coincidence. I'm sure dozens of 30+ actors were dying of heart attacks in Hollywood in 1961.

Christine


John Wayne with both these ladies!


Gail Russell


Esperanza Baur Wayne

 

But Steve kept busy back in the US with more bad-boy films (most of them just bad thanks to the powers-that-be) and more bad-boy gossip (at least it kept his name out there) . Two of his better roles: the underworld kingpin in “I, Mobster” in 1958 ( his 25th onscreen death) and The Big Operator (1959) giving him the chance to play the hero to Mickey Rooney's chilling labor boss (yep, Mickey Rooney gets to do the bad guy and actually gives you chills). But somehow Steve's talents got few chances to shine and he got another film noir that did nothing to enhance his career. The Beat Generation (1959) paired him with Mamie Van Doren (another off-screen torrid romance). It was a disaster so bad that the New York Times reviewer wrote: “The Beat Generation is enough to make any member or non-member walk outside the theater and butt his head against the wall. This excruciating and tasteless little entertainment package arrived at neighborhood showcases yesterday, courtesy of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer - if courtesy is the right word.”


I, Mobster “ with lita Milan


“The Big Operator” “ with Mickey Rooney

In 1960 a harbinger of things to come...Steve had his first brush with death when heavy fog caused his yacht Rogue to crash into Los Angeles Harbor breakwater . On board with the actor were two young women, two dogs and a monkey. They all dived out of the boat just in time to avoid injury. Even the monkey was unavailable for comment.


Danish actress Jonna Jensen becomes
his third wife.

 

 

Steve tried his hand at marriage a third time with a very brief union with Danish actress Jonna Jensen in Las Vegas on March 18th, 1961. It lasted a brief 10 months. Steve didn't seem to be too broken up over it. He kept busy with guest spots on television series and big ticket films like Sam Peckinpah's The Deadly Companions (1961) and Of Love and Desire (1963) that showcased Merle Oberon's return to films after seven years. Of course, Steve was “exceptionally close” to Miss Oberon. But bad news was not far behind. In 1964 Steve was in the news again when a local jockey, Arthur Cecil Miller, filed a civil court petition accusing him of adultery. It seems the actor wrote Mrs. Miller a”love note” while she was working on Steve's film

Mozambique. It read “To Heather, nice to have worked with you. Aloha, Steve.” It was thrown out of court.

 

 

 

 

 

 


”Deadly Companions” with Brian Keith and Maureen O'Hara


“Of Love and Desire” with Merle Oberon

But scandal found him again three months later. A 23-year-old singer, Ronie Rae, face bruised and swollen, showed up at the police station, claiming Cochran beat and gagged her during a fight at his Hollywood Hills home. The gossip columnists had a field day. Her story: after she spilled a drink on the floor the actor beat her up, tied her up with neckties and gagged her with a towel. After she got loose, she called her father and grandfather to come to her aid. His story: she was at his house auditioning for a part in his upcoming film Captain O'Flynn and it didn't go very well. The girl then threw herself on the floor, smashed furniture and repeatedly hit her head against the fireplace. The actor tied her up so she wouldn't do herself bodily harm. When her father came to pick her up, he told Cochran “She's been on those pills again.” Steve was cleared of all charges and thanked for keeping the girl from really hurting herself. That news somehow didn't make all the papers.

In the meantime Steve was romancing

     


...Mamie


...Merle


and Sabrina

But in 1965 Steve was about to take his film-making on a tragic voyage. Captain O'Flynn intrigued him. Based on a real-life story about ship's captain, Lee Quinn and his Pacific voyage in 1963 with an all-girl crew, Cochran decided to do a trial run down the Pacific Coast from Acapulco to Costa Rica, the location chosen to begin filming.. With three Mexican women aboard his 40-foot schooner, the “Rogue”, Steve set out on June 5th for what would be his last voyage. Three weeks later, a Guatemalan Coast Guard vessel towed the Rogue into port at Champerico, Guatamala. On board were three terrified Mexican women and the body of Steve Cochran. According to the coroner's report, Cochran had contracted a deadly lung infection. He began feeling ill three days out. The strange malady paralyzed him by the eighth day and he died ten days into the voyage leaving the women, unable to operate the boat, to drift helplessly at sea for two weeks.

 

Steve Cochran died as he lived in the search for one more great adventure. Hollywood also responded as they always did realizing too late the talent they had lost (his first and only directorial success Tell Me in the Sunlight was released after his death). And, of course, the women in Steve's life came to claim their due. Four days after Cochran's body was discovered, his third wife Jonna Jensen filed a petition in Los Angeles Superior Court for letters of administration over his estate worth $150,000. His mother, Rose, also petitioned the court claiming Jensen had already filed for divorce and that the two had a pre-nuptial agreement that made all property separate. Jensen won. Merle Oberon wanted his death investigated as a possible murder but there was no evidence a crime had been committed.. Mamie Van Doren revealed all their intimate moments in a book. But those who knew him as a friend who always had their back and his fans who always recognized his genuine talent as an actor and director wept for their loss.

 

Walk of Fame

Cemetery headstone

Robert Alexander Cochran, known to his fans as Steve Cochran was buried with both names on his grave stone. He is interred in the Monterey City Cemetery, Monterey, California near the ocean he loved.. Steve also has a star on the Walk of Fame for his work in television but no recognition for his motion picture contributions.

 

Christine ….May 25th, 2011

Early this morning a friend and I set off to visit the Cementerio El
Encinal in Monterey. Today is Robert Alexander Cochran's birthdate and
he would have been 94. I wondered what he would have wanted for his
birthday were he still living. Discarding the obvious first choice, I
decided a cigarette would come in second--it's been a long time between
smokes. (note in the photo, the ever present cigarette)

When we arrived, I could see the huge old oak trees scattered around the
cemetery wet with dew, it looked like they would soon be wet with
rain--oh great!. I removed my clenched fingers from the arm rest, my
friend drives like a bat out of hell, and struggled out of the car, back
aching--from sitting so long, My friend, Lois was doubled over coughing
and trying to light a cigarette. We clung to each over stumbling over
to the office.I wanted to make sure Steve was still number one on the
Legends (celebs) List.
Easy enough,, he's the only actor in the cemetery with many of John
Steinbeck's buddies, local artists, Veterans' of the 1840s Mexican War
with California, several early architects , even a cartoonist.

On the way to see Steve, I stopped to say howdy to Doc Ricketts,
botanist and longtime friend of Steinbeck, Flora Woods Adams, madam of Cannery Row, several other Steinbeck cronies, some of whom Steve knew when he took his boat up to Monterrey.and of course, Constantin Semcheusky, who was page to the Czar of Russia just before WW1. Always wondered how he wound up in Monterey.

Somehow we got to the gravesite, after a stop at Robert Cochran's grave, Steve's Dad, whch was just across a small path from Steve's. I asked Lois for a cigarette, she grumbled a bit, saying flowers would have been cheaper, but handed one over
i laid it next to his marker, so carefully chosen by Rose, Steve's mother. She wanted his birth name on it, others insisted on his screen name, so he wound up with both.

At that point, it started raining, Lois and I did our version of running, and made it back to the car without falling.

I hope Steve enjoyed the cigarette, perhaps Flora even joined him. Maybe there was a ghost yacht christened The Rogue, floating around there in the Bay, waitng for its captain.

We made it home in record time--Lois needed another cigarette --thank heaven there's so little traffic on the Coast Highway. What I need is a hot toddy--no toddy in the house, so I'm settling for tea.

Christine

****Hollywood's cult of the body has
degenerated into the cult of the bawdy****
Steve Cochran 1963


Thanks for the memories, Christine.