IRIS ADRIAN will be remembered as the ageless, brassy blonde broad who chomped gum and cracked wise in a 150 or more Hollywood films - most of them class 'B' movies made to order for the bottom half of double bills during cinema's so-called Golden Age of the Thirties and Forties.
Born Iris Hostetter in Los Angeles in 1913, she took her father's first name for her surname after winning the title of Miss Lake Arrowhead in 1929, at the age of 16. She left Miss Page's School for Girls to become a dancer in the chorus line of a Hollywood revue, then rose to dance a solo number in Rah Rah Daze, a touring show starring America's radio favourites Fred Waring and his Pennsylvanians. Soon she was on Broadway dancing in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1931. A trip abroad followed and after dancing in London and Paris, she returned to New York where she landed the chance to dance with none other than George Raft, Hollywood's latest heart-throb.
Her first films were made in New York, Technicolor two-
reelers for MGM and shorts for Vanity Comedies, a trademark of the Educational Film Corporation. This company had long lost any connection with its original name, although some might have said that Adrian's sexy looks and snappy wisecracks were an education in themselves. Paramount Pictures apparently liked what they saw, and she was signed to a feature player contract in 1934, a move which brought her back to her home town, Hollywood.
Adrian's first full-length film was Rumba (1935) which reunited her with her touring tap dancer George Raft. Among her many following films were: Stolen Harmony (1935), Our Relations (1936) with Laurel and Hardy, Back Door to Heaven (1939), The Road to Zanzibar (1941), second of the sensationally successful Bob Hope / Bing Crosby musical comedies, Horror Island (1941), Too Many Blondes (1941), Roxie Hart (1942) with Ginger Rogers, Juke Box Jenny (1943), The Woman in the Window (1944), directed by Fritz Lang and starring Edward G. Robinson, The Stork Club (1945) with Betty Hutton, and many, many more. In all of them she was virtually the same, a cheap night-club floozie who gave any man as good as she got, if not better.
As her youth faded, and her hair needed more and more of the bright blonde bleach, she began to use her money with wisdom. Married to a popular football star, Fido Murphy, she invested in real estate, owning and managing a number of apartment houses in Los Angeles. As television grew, she appeared in various commercials, including some for toothpaste. Finally she made a comeback in films as a still brassy, loud- mouthed old lady in several Walt Disney productions, including The Love Bug (1969), The Apple Dumpling Gang (1975) and Herbie Goes Bananas (1980). She was deeply interested in astrology, and this latterday combined career prompted her to comment, 'My sign is Gemini, the twins - the actress and the landlady]'
Recently she remarked that the California earthquakes were causing her some concern. 'One good shake and the landlady is out of business,' she said. On 17 January the Northridge earthquake caused her to fall and break a hip. It was an injury from which she did not recover.