Obituary: Evelyn Venable
Wednesday 29 December 1993
ALTHOUGH she retired after only 10 years on the screen, Evelyn Venable was seen in more films than most superstars; she was the first model for Columbia Pictures' Statue of Liberty logo.
Her father was Emerson Venable, a college professor and noted Shakespearean authority. Evelyn began acting in high school plays, and at 15 played Juliet at the Cincinatti Civic Theater. She attended Vassar, but stayed only briefly at the University of Cincinatti, leaving to join a stock company run by the actor Walter Hampden, with whom she appeared in Cyrano de Bergerac and Hamlet. When the company played Los Angeles, her Ophelia impressed a talent scout, and she was signed to a Paramount contract. In her first film, Cradle Song (1933), she was liked as the foster daughter of a nun (Dorothea Wieck, the German star of Madchen in Uniform). In Death Takes a Holiday (1934), she played the sensitive Grazia, with whom Death (Fredric March) falls in love. Mordaunt Hall wrote in the New York Times: 'Miss Venable lends to her acting a praiseworthy earnestness.' A loan-out to Fox for David Harum (1934) changed her life; she and Hal Mohr, the film's cinematographer, fell in love and were married that same year.
After austere roles in Mrs Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch (1934), Will Rogers's The County Chairman (1935), The Little Colonel (1935), Alice Adams (1935) and the Stephen Foster biopic Harmony Lane (1935), she was given a rare chance to let her hair down in Hal Roach's farcical Vagabond Lady (1935). Variety enthused: 'She plays with a dash and genuine comedy spirit that will amaze those who have seen her in her previous assignments. She's entitled to the right sort of parts.' She didn't receive them, but her mellifluous tones made her the ideal for the voice of the Blue Fairy in Disney's Pinocchio (1940). 'I recorded it line by line, emphasising different words each time,' she said. 'Then they chose whichever recording captured the dramatic feeling they wanted.' She retired from the screen in 1943 to concentrate on her growing family. Mohr died in 1974, after which his widow finally completed her college education. She spent her last years teaching at the University of Southern California.
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