Julie Bishop

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Jacqueline Brown (Julie Bishop), actress: born Denver, Colorado 30 August 1914; married 1936 Walter Booth Brooks III (marriage dissolved 1939), 1944 Lt-Col Clarence Shoop (later Maj-Gen, died 1968; one son, one daughter), 1968 William Bergin; died Mendocino, California 30 August 2001.

Julie Bishop was a pretty, red-headed actress who, during a long career that included leading roles with Humphrey Bogart, Errol Flynn and John Wayne, acted in films under four names. As Jacqueline Brown, she was a child star in silent films, as Jacqueline Wells she was an ingénue in B-movies and serials and became mate to Tarzan (Buster Crabbe) in Tarzan the Fearless, and as Julie Bishop she was a leading lady at Warner Bros in the Forties. She also made one film and some stage appearances as Diane Duvall. John Wayne credited her sensitive performance in their scenes together in The Sands of Iwo Jima with helping him win an Oscar nomination.

Born Jacqueline Brown in Denver, Colorado, in 1914 but raised in Wichita Falls, Texas, Bishop was encouraged in her acting ambitions by her parents. Her banker father also acted as Will Wells and her mother was a prominent socialite.

As Jacqueline Brown, she made her screen début as a child in Bluebeard's Eighth Wife (1923) followed by several other silent movies including Maytime (1923) with Clara Bow, Children of Jazz (1923), Dorothy Vernon of Haddon Hall (1924) with Mary Pickford, and The Family Upstairs (1926). After completing her education at Westlake and Kenwood School for Girls, and studying singing and dancing with Theodore Kosloff, she joined the Pasadena Playhouse, where her roles included Ophelia in Hamlet.

Spotted by a talent scout for Hal Roach, she was given a contract and played roles (billed as Jacqueline Wells) in two-reel shorts including Skip the Maloo (1931), In Walked Charley (1932) and The Knockout (1932). She was billed as Diane Duval when she acted with Laurel and Hardy in Any Old Port (1932) then, with her Titian hair dyed blonde, was the heroine of the serials Heroes of the West (1932), Clancy of the Mounted (1933) and Tarzan the Fearless (1933), which starred Buster Crabbe as the jungle hero.

When signed to a Paramount contract she reverted to her natural hair colour and appeared in two films with W.C. Fields, Tillie and Gus and Alice in Wonderland (both 1933) and an early Cary Grant vehicle, Kiss and Make Up (1934). She had one of her best early roles when loaned to Universal to appear as the terrorised honeymooner nearly sacrificed in a Black Mass in Edgar G. Ulmer's expressionistic horror movie The Black Cat (1934), which starred Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi. She worked with Laurel and Hardy again when she played the gypsy heroine in the musical The Bohemian Girl (1936), a highlight of which was her rendition of the hit tune "I Dreamt I Dwelt in Marble Halls" though, despite her singing ability, the demanding number was dubbed.

In 1936 she married Walter Booth Brooks III, a socialite and journalist, but the couple divorced two years later. After more theatre work, the actress was offered a third movie contract, this time by Columbia, who starred her in several "B" movies including The Frame-up, Counsel for Crime (both 1937) and two films which had young Rita Hayworth in the supporting cast, Girls Can Play (1937), with Wells as the ace player in a girls' soft-ball team, and Paid to Dance (1937), in which Wells was an undercover agent posing as a dance-hall hostess to uncover a gangster racket.

Eight more "B"s followed in 1938, but Bishop later confessed that she found her roles less challenging than her work in the theatre, to which she returned whenever she could, appearing with Billie Burke in The Marquise and playing Portia in a Los Angeles production of The Merchant of Venice.

Typical films of 1939 were My Son is a Criminal, Behind Prison Gates and My Son is Guilty, then she was loaned to Republic to appear in The Kansas Terrors (1939), two westerns with Roy Rogers, The Ranger and the Lady and Young Bill Hickok (both 1940) and one with Gene Autry, Back in the Saddle (1941).

At the "poverty row" studio Monogram, Wells and Alan Ladd had roles in support of Edith Fellows and Wilbur Evans in the musical Her First Romance (1940), a minor film that the studio was able to recycle a few years later when it was re- released as The Right Man with Ladd and Bishop, both much better known, given star billing.

Returning to the stage, Wells toured in Rain, Dangerous Corner and other plays, but when called to Warner Bros to test with John Barrymore for the film version of The Man Who Came to Dinner, she was given a contract (though neither she nor Barrymore was cast in the film). Instructed to change her name, she chose Julie Bishop because her luggage was monogrammed J.B.

Her first film with the studio was a modest but enjoyable whodunnit, The Nurse's Secret (1941), starring Lee Patrick, then she was given the small but choice role as Ronald Reagan's "girl back home" in the flying drama International Squadron (1941). After bland supporting roles in Steel Against the Sky (1941) and Wild Bill Hickok Rides (1942) she had a fine part as a forthright chorus girl in the musical drama The Hard Way (1942). The star Dennis Morgan said,

I worked with most of the redheads in town – Annie Sheridan, Rita Hayworth, Janis Paige, and the most beautiful of all, Arlene Dahl. However, Julie Bishop stands out in my memory as not only being beautiful with a fantastic figure, but as having the class of a Greer Garson with that slightly aloof quality Cyd Charisse embodies.

Bishop was a waspish socialite suspected of murder in a creepy thriller, The Hidden Hand (1942), set in a mansion full of secret passages and trap-doors, then supported Olivia DeHavilland and Robert Cummings in the comedy Princess O'Rourke (1943). She and Cummings were to begin a lifelong friendship, and it was also on the set of the film that Bishop met the test pilot, Lt-Col Clarence A. Shoop, who was to become her second husband in 1944.

The pin-up pictures circulated by the studio and the actress's sterling work at the Hollywood Canteen had made her a great favourite with servicemen, and she next played leading lady to two of the top stars of the day, Humphrey Bogart in Action in the North Atlantic (1943) and Errol Flynn in Northern Pursuit (1943). In the former she gave a persuasive rendition of Cole Porter's "Night and Day" and had a moving farewell scene with Bogart. In the latter she was the sweetheart of a Canadian Mountie (Errol Flynn) who pretends to be a traitor in order to uncover a group of Nazi saboteurs. In the final scene, as they are about to be wed, Flynn assures her that she is the only woman who ever meant anything to him, then turns to the camera and asks, "What am I saying?"

In Rhapsody in Blue (1945), Bishop gave a warm and under-stated performance as Lee Gershwin, the wife of lyricist Ira Gershwin, but the studio no longer promoted her, and the actress later blamed the studio's displeasure at her marriage. Her last Warner release, Cinderella Jones (1946), gave her the chance to display her singing and dancing talents. Freelancing, she took a role in You Came Along (1945), which starred Robert Cummings as a flyer and on which her husband was a technical adviser. As a night-club entertainer, she sang "Kiss the Boys Goodbye".

Notable among her films of this period were the musical mystery Murder in the Music Hall (1946), in which she was an ice-skater, Last of the Redmen (1947), a remake of The Last of the Mohicans co-starring Jon Hall and, as the villain, Bishop's former Tarzan, Buster Crabbe.

Bishop had one of her best- remembered roles in Allan Dwan's The Sands of Iwo Jima (1949), as a deserted wife and mother who turns to prostitution to support her child. When she takes home a hard-bitten soldier (John Wayne) that she has met in a bar in Hawaii, then slips out to get some whisky, he finds the baby and, on learning her story, helps her feed it. The unsentimental playing of Bishop and Wayne lends the scene great emotional impact and Wayne later credited it as a major factor in the Oscar nomination he received.

Five years later, when casting his own production The High and the Mighty, the loyal actor cast several of his former leading ladies, including Claire Trevor, Jan Sterling, Laraine Day, Ann Doran and Bishop, who played the wife of a theatrical producer (Robert Newton), as passengers on a stricken aeroplane.

Bishop's final film was The Big Land (1956) starring her old friend Alan Ladd, in which she played a farmer's wife and the mother of a young boy played by David Ladd.

In 1952 she had been leading lady to Robert Cummings in his television comedy series My Hero, and after retiring from films she toured with Cummings in several plays, including Holiday for Lovers and The Tunnel of Love.

She and Shoop, who at one time was Director of Flying Operations for Hughes Aircraft Corporation, had one son (a former jet pilot, now a surgeon) and one daughter, the actress Pamela Shoop Sweeney, and spent much of their time in Europe. Shoop died in 1968, and later that year Bishop married a wealthy Beverly Hills surgeon, William Bergin.

As a society matron who was regularly named one of the 10 best-dressed women in Los Angeles, Bishop took an active part in philanthopic endeavours, serving as national president of the Achievement Rewards for College Scientists, an organisation she helped found that presents scholarships to outstanding students in science and engineering. A licensed private pilot (both Bergins flew their own plane), she also painted still lifes. The Bergins lived on an estate in Mendocino, California, and had a second residence in Palm Springs.

In 1975 Bishop was asked if she would ever return to the screen. "My husband does not want me to work," she replied, adding, "There are times when I long to return to the work I love . . . and some day I might."

Tom Vallance

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