Nell O’Day

Born in Prairie Hill, Texas, in 1909, lovely Nell O’Day had the obvious breeding credentials to become a leading lady of westerns. She began as a child dancer in the early 1920s, later performing with the Tommy Atkins Sextet. This led to a part in the early musical King of Jazz (1930) and the stage play “Fine and Dandy” with dancer Eleanor Powell. This was impetus enough to make her stay and try her luck at a film career. A string of comedy shorts with Harry Langdon began things off, along with a few secondary parts in feature films, including This Side of Heaven (1934) with Lionel Barrymore, Woman in the Dark (1934) with Fay Wray and a juicy part in an interesting exploitation film for low-rent producer Willis Kent, The Road to Ruin (1934). In the 1940s she joined Universal’s roster of western players and, thanks to her experience as a horsewoman, won a recurring cowgirl role in a series of hoss operas opposite star Johnny Mack Brown and his sidekick Fuzzy Knight. She was “second lead” in the horror film Mystery of Marie Roget (1942) with Maria Montez and went on to appear in westerns for other studios, including Republic and Monogram. She returned to the stage on occasion, and retired in 1945 after performing in the Broadway play “Many Happy Returns.” She then turned full-time to writing; one success was the play “The Bride of Denmark Hill,” which was later turned into a BBC-TV production in England. Interspersed were a couple of marriages and divorces. She died in 1989.

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