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January 21, 2009


D Cairns

Great piece! Very moving, and I like your take on the story.


Thanks very much -- there'll be a less depressing one along next, I think...


Thanks for the story. I always wonder, when reading about these bit players, whether this sort of acting is like "community theater"--something you do because you enjoy it--or whether these folks actually made a living doing this without doing something more mundane during the day. I suspect the latter.

I didn't find the story depressing, nice to see Sally kept bouncing back. Besides, all of those romantic liaisons with leading leading Hollywood men would make for some excellent stories later in life.


Rather, I suspect the former. Oops.

diarmid mogg

Isn't it annoying when you can't edit comments on a blog?

On whether extras do it for the money or the love of the movies, I'd have to say it seems to be different for different people, and that it varies from decade to decade. Most of the extras in the period I'm looking at -- the 30s to the mid-50s -- did it either because they had a background in the theater or vaudeville and were used to performing in a workmanlike fashion, or because they hoped to become movie stars. (However, in the 30s there were as many as 8,000 extras competing for around 1,500 jobs, so the chances of even getting work, let alone being discovered, were tiny -- although they were still better than if you had a similarly badly paid minimum wage job outside Hollywood, in which case they'd be zero.)

As you suspect, though, a significant element of extras seem to do it as a sort of community theater, but one where you might get to hang out with famous folks from time to time. However, in the noir era --which covers those difficult years from the wall street crash, through the depression and world war 2 and ends around the start of the prosperous 50s -- that type seems to have been rarer than they might be these days.

D Cairns


I've awarded you a Premier Dardos. Don't expect you to send out five more and post about it here, because I know you're keeping the place pure. But I think you deserve it, and any excuse to point people here is worthwhile.


Excellent! My first internet award! I wonder if, like Jake LaMotta did with his boxing champion belt, I can tear the jewels out and pawn them for cash...

Lance Moody

Words fail me... this site is one of the most delightful I have ever seen here on the Internets. Many thanks!


Thanks very much, Lance!

Bill Ennis

I knew Sally as "Aunt Sally". She was probably one of my grandmother's closest friends, and she continued to be close to our family after Grandma passed away. Once every month or so, my father would take us over to her home, in the hills just south of Century City, for a Sunday visit. Her favorite ice cream was Pecan Praline, usually purchased from the Ralph's grocery store down the street.
Over time, that was one of the constants that remained accessible to her ailing mind. Alzheimer's began to take its toll, and we curiously (I'm referring to myself and three other kids) and sadly watched her drift away. She would forget that she had just asked the same question four or five times within fifteen minutes, but she would never forget to offer the kids some Pecan Praline ice cream.
I remember stopping by one weekend morning. She was reclining on the couch, watching Warner Bros. cartoons. "How are you feeling?", my dad asked.
"Oh, just fine, thank you. I was just waiting for The Studio to call."
Even I knew, at 11 years old, that The Studio would never call again.
A few years later, she was either admitted to a facility, or her sister took her to Denver; I don't recall the details. She was a sweet woman with a heart of gold, and that is unforgettable.
Every once in a while, I order a scoop of Pecan Praline. My kids aren't fans.


Actually, Dad, I DO like pecan praline. It's good. I remember Aunt Sally from when I was a toddler, barely.

Josh Betz

I took care of Sally Yarnell at the end of her life in a nursing home in Thornton Colorado. I was just a teenager but remember her well, she could no longer hold a conversation, but sang or hummed old show tunes incessantly. I will never forget the 8 X 10 ultra glamorous photo of her looking like a 1940's pin-up girl on a Hawaiian beach. The photo sat on her dresser and was such a stark contrast to the shell of a woman in front of me that old age and Alzheimer had effected so strongly and unfairly- Thanks for this blog explaining her!

diarmid mogg

It only explains her up to a point -- there's a lot we'll never know. But thanks for contributing your reminiscence. That's a very interesting memory to have.

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