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Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Dorothy Ridste Writes About Carole


Carole was very close to her older sister Dorothy Ridste Ross. In 1985 Dorothy wrote about their 
childhood and Carole's road to stardom ...

How do you become a movie star? Well, let me tell you some about Carole - Frances Lillian Ridste. As we grew up in San Bernardino she was a very vivacious and beautiful little girl. Mother called her “Baby Doll” and she always signed her letters to mother as “Baby”. She was literally born singing and dancing, always performing when someone was near. She read every movie magazine she could get and had pictures of the stars on our bedroom walls. Her favorites were Dorothy and Lillian Gish, Mary Astor and Kay Francis. The intrigue of the Gish sisters was of course the names - Frances Lillian and Dorothy. They were silent movie stars and we saw them frequently at the Saturday matinees.

Carole (sitting) and Dorothy                                                                             Dorothy and Carole (wearing a headband)   

It is interesting that Mary Astor and Kay Francis were both a big part of her movie life. She made pictures with them and they were good friends. Kay Francis of course was on some of the USO Tours and was at Carole and Tommy’s wedding. Also in the movie Four Jills In A Jeep, which Carole wrote of their USO Tours. BUT I’m getting ahead of the story! When Frances was about seven years old the Fox Theater chain built a big, beautiful theater in our town and the management had talent contests. Frances was very outgoing and of course she was one of the first to enter. Without any fear and enjoying every minute she won first prize. She sang “Yes Sir That’s My Baby” and danced the Charleston. That victory really spurred her on and her dreams became greater to be a movie star.

Carole playing dress-up                                                                                      Carole (left) and Dorothy

The owners and dance instructor of the (only) dance studio in our town offered to give Frances free dancing lessons if she would appear in shows to be given at Resort Hotels and other places. Of course she was all for it, but my mother would not let her unless I was with her so the owners made the bargain for both of us. We worked hard, studied and practiced for weeks and then the night of our first appearance came. It was to be at a hotel in The Valley of the Moon, which is in the Big Bear Mountains. I can well remember the night we drove up there. It was a cold winter night. The moon was full and the sky soft with fluffy clouds that passed over the moon making everything kind of scary, but it was so beautiful as we drove the winding road through the beautiful pine trees and well worth the trip.

                        18 year old Carole                                                                Carole, Dorothy, and their mother                       

Our performance was successful and we were given dinner for it. Lest I imply that the dance group was just Frances and me I had better mention we had eight girls in the group. About that time the Fox theaters were sponsoring a beauty contest. It was in three of the Fox theaters in San Bernardino, Redlands, and Riverside. The winner of the first contest and several of the runner-ups went on to the next town. Frances and I went to all three. She won first in all of them and I made second in the last contest. The Rose Room was a dance hall in town that held Saturday matinees for the younger crowd and you can believer that Frances was always there. Again, mother would not let her go without me so I sat and watched her dance, dance, dance! She was so popular, such a marvelous dancer and won so many dance contests. She was really a natural - her life was singing and dancing.

                                                                                    
Finally on to Hollywood!! She stood in the extras lines for hours on end and days on end taking any bit part she could get. She was given a part in the chorus line in the picture Varsity Show, a musical starring Dick Powell and the Lane Sisters (there were four of them). Busby Berkeley saw and took her out of the line and she was on her way as a starlet for Warner Brothers Studio. She worked hard, studied much, took singing lessons, golf, tennis, horseback riding, learned French and other foreign languages and seemed successful through work and perseverance in all she attempted to do.

Carole during World War 2

She went on from movie to movie, to New York stage plays and then made One Million B C. That was her big thrill because it had its world premiere in her hometown of SAN BERNARDINO, CALIFORNIA, at the very Fox theater where she won her first contest singing and dancing. As the War came (World War II) she went on U.S. bond selling tours all over the United States, to the Stagedoor Canteens to entertain service men and on USO tours here stateside as well as England, Africa, and the South Pacific. She was a warmhearted person who loved her family and all she met giving freely of herself, her time and talents. She was loved by all…

~ Written by Dorothy Ridste Ross (1917-1997), sister of Carole Landis