Marylin Monroe, Sammy Davis Jr and Donald O'Connor

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Marylin Monroe, Sammy Davis Jr and Donald O'Connor

Postby DGreen » Tue Oct 11, 2016 12:38 am

This really trivial stuff, but does anyone know the back story on the photos of the Singer 4AD taken with Marylin Monroe and Sammy Davis Jr and the photos used for the magazine cover with Donald 'Connor and a different "hopped-up" Singer roadster? After finding the uncropped photos of O'Connor and the car using google, I noticed that they were all taken at exactly location and, I suppose, may have been shot on the same day. Anyone know who's with O'Connor in the photos? Who's the third guy with Marylin and Sammy? I know the O'Connor shots had something to do with a magazine article, but is there more to all these shots with celebrities than just coincidence?

Yours in Curiosity,

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Re: Marylin Monroe, Sammy Davis Jr and Donald O'Connor

Postby DGreen » Tue Oct 11, 2016 12:55 am

I found a reference to the photographer (Frank Worth) and it appears to Debbie Reynolds with Donald O'Connor. I'm still curious about the rest of the story though.

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Re: Marylin Monroe, Sammy Davis Jr and Donald O'Connor

Postby Phillip » Tue Oct 11, 2016 1:16 am

Hey D’arcy,

The full story was written up in NASOC NEWS a couple of years ago. We also negotiated an exclusive arrangement with the company in Hollywood that owns the rights to the Frank Worth archive and made high-quality prints available of any Singer-related photos to our members.

Frank Worth wrote a biography about his years as a publicity photographer to the studios and I am sure you can find it on-line. It’s rumoured he had an affair with Monroe.

Worth shot the Singer set at the Hollywood Bowl and Davis snapped some colour shots as well. He was a keen amateur photographer. Worth used to ‘double up’ his shoots for the studios by also taking shots for car magazines to make more money, the Monroe one for Auto World being the most famous. Worth owned a Riley drophead and there is a photo of it around taken at the same shoot.

The Donald O’Connor / Debbie Reynolds photos were taken for a humorous article called “Seven Ways to Wear a Sports Car” in which O’Connor affected various “motoring types” by wearing different costumes.
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Re: Marylin Monroe, Sammy Davis Jr and Donald O'Connor

Postby DGreen » Tue Oct 11, 2016 4:20 am

Thank you, Phillip. That's really interesting. Has anyone ever seen the Davis photos? I must say, period photos of these cars (or of any car really), are my favourites. I think I've seen three variations of the custom two tone paint similar to the one in the O'Connor pictures, with integration of sickle-shapes. Two are shown in racing pictures and the third is the O'Connor car. Were those something that a dealer like Vaughn did as a custom treatment? Do any cars still survive with that style of paint? Sorry for all of the questions.

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Re: Marylin Monroe, Sammy Davis Jr and Donald O'Connor

Postby Phillip » Tue Oct 11, 2016 2:56 pm

Hey Martin,

Yes, there are a couple floating about. One is a portrait of Monroe and one is of her with the red 4AD Roadster.

Vaughan was known to offer a number of extras with his cars, but the most famous 'two tone' would probably be the Singer belonging to 'Lammy' Lamoreaux, an ex-speedway motorcycle racer and successful Singer pilot in the '50's So-Cal racing scene. It was involved in an accident after 'Lammy' sold it on.

The Four Cylinder Car Club website has some great photos of Singers in period.

This link shows some shots of my own car be in the '50's, where it often featured in FCCC and So-Cal car events:

http://www.fourcylinderclubhistory.com/ ... arly-1950s

We featured the story of the FCCC in an issue of NASOC NEWS a few years ago with lots of period Singer shots supplied by the website.

Hope that is of interest...
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Re: Marylin Monroe, Sammy Davis Jr and Donald O'Connor

Postby Peter McKercher » Tue Oct 11, 2016 6:47 pm

DGreen wrote: Do any cars still survive with that style of paint? Sorry for all of the questions.

D'Arcy


The custom colours were definitely aftermarket. The only two of the sort you describe that I am aware of were Lammy Lamoreaux' car and the car featured with Donald O'Connor. Neither would have been painted at either the Lamoreaux dealership or Vaughan Singer Motors as neither had the facilities to do so. In fact VSM didn't even have the resources to dealer prep their own cars.

I've only ever seen the one picture of the O'Connor car and I have no idea where it went. I have seen footage of most of the Singers raced between 1949 and '55 and never seen evidence of it. The Lamoreaux car was sold to Bob Sullivan in '53 and he campaigned it quite vigorously in many SCCA events. It lost its distinctive colour scheme in 1954 after Sullivan rolled it over at Torrey Pines. Shortly thereafter, Earl Gandel purchased the car. Unfortunately he was T boned by a Cadillac and the car was sent to the wreckers. Earl was fine and lives to tell the tale today.
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Re: Marylin Monroe, Sammy Davis Jr and Donald O'Connor

Postby DGreen » Wed Oct 12, 2016 6:06 am

Thank you, Peter.

As far as I can tell, there was the Lamoreaux car (1), the car in the O'Connor photos (2) and Vern Garner's 116F race car (3) which had a very, very similar paint job to the O'Connor photo shoot car. I say similar because they appear to differ in the how the white is applied to the rear of the car, above the rear fender. I suppose it could be the same car with a slight repaint due to damage or something. The O'Connor car appears to have a sickle-shape that trails above the rear fender, while the Gardner car seems to have the whole area abvove the rear fender painted white. Both cars have exactly the same sickle shape extending downward ahead of the rear fender. I'm familiar with a few of the more well-known custom painters from the fifties, but it may be possible to trace the style to a particular painter or shop. All of these paint schemes are beautiful, if you ask me.

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Re: Marylin Monroe, Sammy Davis Jr and Donald O'Connor

Postby Peter McKercher » Wed Oct 12, 2016 12:10 pm

D'Arcy
Brilliant observation. Nice to see someone looking as closely at this trivia as I am. I never compared the O'Connor car to Gardner's, in part because Gardner was not part of the Hollywood set. He was from Oakland.

Frankly, from my pictures, I don't see the difference you are pointing out over the rear wings. I see differences between the shots in the O"Connor article due to light angles and reflections, but everything from the cowl to the rear deck is the same as Gardners. So in all likelihood, it is the same car. Is it still around? Maybe. Gardners garage is still in operation and they still have the BMC bodied Singer Special that he raced in the Fifties.
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Re: Marylin Monroe, Sammy Davis Jr and Donald O'Connor

Postby Peter McKercher » Wed Oct 12, 2016 2:33 pm

[i][quote="Phillip Avis"]Vaughan was known to offer a number of extras with his cars, but the most famous 'two tone' would probably be the Singer belonging to 'Lammy' Lamoreaux, an ex-speedway motorcycle racer and successful Singer pilot in the '50's So-Cal racing scene. It was involved in an accident after 'Lammy' sold it on.
quote]
[/i]
This is a common misconception based, it appears, on the fact that cars that have surfaced over the years and were originally sold by Vaughan Singer Motors, had a variety of racing upgrades. The fact is that VSM was only a franchising operation through which Gretske, co-owner (25% share) and General Manager, promoted the development of Singer dealership franchises throughout the 25 Western states.

VSM had a very small show room that would display about 3 cars at a time, but no service facility. In fact, he initially tried to cut a deal with Al Moss (Moss Motors) to do VSM's dealer prep on all new cars prior to their sale. Moss refused, somewhat based on the fact that he was an MG guy, but more based on the fact that he didn't like Gretske and had no interest in doing business with him. This is according to a conversation I had with Moss.

Gretske ultimately settled on Schaeffer's Garage to do dealer prep and customer service. Schaeffer's was housed in the other half of the building occupied by VSM and in fact leased the showroom space to Gretske. Truth be told, VSM had very limited assets of its own.

VSM was located in close proximity to a number of shops that specialized in speed equipment for the rapidly expanding sports car market in southern California. Notably Bill Kerrigan had an engineering shop that specialized in chassis work and Chet Herbert was one of the sport’s truest innovators and producers of racing cams and headers. It's no surprise then, that Bill Kerrigan was the driver to secure Singers first and probably most significant win on the west coast (Reno '52). He took the same car to Bridgehampton with significant upgrades performed by Chet Herbert. This car was the only one that VSM had any direct involvement in with respect to performance upgrades. It's worthy of mention that there were few to no performance components available through VSM for Singers, with the exception of a modified gear shift and wheel plates designed to reinforce the wheel hubs.

This is not to say that there weren't any Singers that had performance upgrades. There certainly were, but modifications were done by their owners after purchase in the true SoCal fashion.
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Re: Marylin Monroe, Sammy Davis Jr and Donald O'Connor

Postby Phillip » Wed Oct 12, 2016 5:36 pm

I made no reference to Vaughan adding 'racing upgrades', nor do I have any 'misconceptions' about that fact.
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Re: Marylin Monroe, Sammy Davis Jr and Donald O'Connor

Postby Peter McKercher » Wed Oct 12, 2016 7:47 pm

The common misconception is that such things as hotter cams and louvres were offered by Vaughan Singer Motors. Vaughan did make available a few after market accessories including a Glass fiber top (through Glasspar), wind wings (through MG Mitten), a "Singer" License plate, wheel plates and a heim jointed gear shift developed by John Martin. I suppose that these could be construed as "a number of extras " that Vaughan offered. That must be what you meant.
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Re: Marylin Monroe, Sammy Davis Jr and Donald O'Connor

Postby mikeyr » Thu Oct 13, 2016 11:14 pm

my 4AD had a cam and louvers and I know the original owner bought it that way NEW from the dealer.

Also I can't remember his name now, but the gentleman who had 2 4AD's in Solvang in the 70's and 80's got both from Vaughn new and one had louvers and he had the receipt to prove it.

So Vaughn did play with the cars...sorry Peter.
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Re: Marylin Monroe, Sammy Davis Jr and Donald O'Connor

Postby Peter McKercher » Fri Oct 14, 2016 12:05 am

My source for this information was Jack Martin who was parts manager for VSM until 1956. Jack's car also had louvres which he had done off site as Vaughan couldn't perform this type of work. It's not out of the question that VSM might have coordinated the work at the request of a customer with a neighbouring engineering firm prior to releasing the car to its new owner. Bill Kerrigan's firm could easily have done the work as could Cy Yedor's garage. My point is that it was not something that defined a VSM car and certainly wasn't done as a matter of course. Even Bill Kerrigan's Reno/Palm Springs First Place car that Gretske footed the bill for had a bonnet that was smooth as a baby's bum.
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Re: Marylin Monroe, Sammy Davis Jr and Donald O'Connor

Postby Peter McKercher » Fri Oct 14, 2016 2:40 am

Here is the extent of VSM's premises
vsm_showroom_mod.jpg
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Re: Marylin Monroe, Sammy Davis Jr and Donald O'Connor

Postby DGreen » Fri Oct 14, 2016 6:00 am

Very cool, photo! Thanks for sharing that, Peter.

D'Arcy


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