Guest Author - Edie Dykeman
One of the biggest stars of 1950s television, Gale Storm hardly seemed destined for stardom. Born Josephine Owaissa Cottle on April 5, 1922 in Bloomington, TX, she spent her early years living a hardscrabble life.
Stormís father died before she was two years old. Her mother raised Storm and her four older siblings, supporting them with menial jobs such as sewing for others.
After the family moved to Houston, Storm became an accomplished dancer and skater, and often performed with her high school drama club. When she was seventeen, two of her teachers talked her into trying out for the Gateway to Hollywood contest.
One male and one female winner were to be chosen. The two would each receive a one-year contract with a movie studio. The female winnerís designated name was Gale Storm. Of course, Josephine won and went on to fame and fortune.
The male winner of the contest, Lee Bonnell, was given the name Terry Belmont. The handsome young man did not care for acting, but prior to his success in the insurance business Lee and Gale were married. They eventually had four children, and were married until his death in 1987.
Gale stayed with acting making a number of movies throughout the 1940s. Early in 1952, she was tapped to star in My Little Margie. At thirty-years-old, the perky actress played twenty-one-year-old Margie, who lived with her father Vern Albright, played by veteran actor Charles Farrell.
They shared an apartment at the Carlton Arms Hotel, and he worked as a vice president of the investment firm Honeywell and Todd. The premise had Margie wanting to take care of problems, but she seemed always to make a mess of things. Her elderly neighbor Mrs. Odetts quite often joined Margie in her schemes.
The highly successful My Little Margie aired for 126 episodes over four seasons. The show switched between CBS and NBC during the run from 1952-1955.
The Gale Storm Show: Oh! Susanna began airing on CBS in 1956. The show ran for 143 episodes, the last year on ABC. Storm played a cruise ship director, Susanna Pomeroy. As the ship cruised around the world, new situations would arise while the ship was moored at various ports. ZaSu Pitts costarred as Elvira Nugent. Guest stars included Pat Boone, Lorne Green, Boris Karloff, Doug McClure, and Robby the Robot.
In 1953, Gale recorded her first record, I Hear You Knocking, selling more than a million copies. She followed with several other songs including Dark Moon in 1957 that reached #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
When The Gale Storm Show ended in 1960, she turned to singing full time, headlined in Las Vegas, and appeared in numerous stage plays. She later wrote an autobiography I Ainít Down Yet that addressed her battle with alcoholism. She was included in The Women Who Made Television Funny: Ten Stars of 1950s Sitcoms written by author David C. Tucker.
After the death of her first husband, she married Paul Masterson in 1988. He died in 1996.
Her three stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame are for her contributions to recording, radio, and television.
After a long and successful life as an actress, singer, mother, and wife, Gale Storm died June 27, 2009 at the age of 87.
Her sitcoms occasionally appear on television, most recently ION, but individual episodes also appear on YouTube, along with her songs. Amazon.com also has CDs and DVDs of her works available as well as her autobiography.