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An Interview With…
        - Carole Mathews
        - Ruta Lee
        - Gail Davis
        - Pamela Blake
        - Julie Adams
        - Joan Barclay
        - Phyllis Coates
        - Virginia Mayo
        - Kay Hughes
        - Ursula Thiess
        - Lois January
        - Nell O'Day
        - Reno Browne
        - Edith Fellows
        - Pauline Moore
        - Beverly Garland
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        - Ann Rutherford
        - Noel Neill
        - Jane Greer
        - Lisa Gaye
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        - June Vincent
        - Evelyn Keyes
        - Betty Jane Rhodes
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        - Ann Gillis
        - Argentina Brunetti
        - Dorothy Green
        - Laurie Mitchell
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Pamela Blake.PAMELA BLAKE

First as Adele Pearce (her real name) and then as Pamela Blake, the name for which she’s best remembered, this lady proved good things really do come in small packages. Although appearing in nearly 50 films, including “This Gun For Hire”, a star maker for Alan Ladd, Pam is best remembered for her Western and serial roles. Born in Oakland, CA, and calling the year “superfluous”, Pam told us, “My dad was with PG&E in San Francisco. My mother passed away when I was three. I moved from there and lived with an aunt and uncle, relatives of my dad’s. There was a contest when I was in high school. I read in the paper Paramount was looking for girls from different cities. The audition was being held on a cruise ship. I went down and there were…hundreds of girls. This fellow happened to come by and said, ‘Follow me.’ We were having a hard time getting through the crowd, so I was holding onto his belt and dragging along behind him. He said, ‘Honey, come to the Warfield Theater in San Francisco tomorrow,’ and he gave me a card. I left the ship, went down there and there were only about 60 girls picked out of the bunch. We paraded around, talked, and after that I got a wire from Paramount. They had three girls picked and would grant an interview. Anyway, I won the contest and went to Paramount. I was on a picture for a couple of months and did nothing…just background, ‘Eight Girls in a Boat.’ I went back to San Francisco to the Paramount Hotel where they had a little theatre and studied there for a while.”

Title card for "Utah Trail" starring Tex Ritter.

She’d rather forget her introduction to Westerns, “Utah Trail” (‘38) with Tex Ritter. “Don’t mention it. It was terrible! I never saw it and never wanted to. But then I did one
John Wayne and Pam in "Wyoming Outlaw" (;39 Republic). with John Wayne (“Wyoming Outlaw”—3 Mesquiteers). He’d done ‘Stagecoach’, so I knew he was the biggest thing, but he had a contract with Republic and had to do three pictures there. When I went on the John Wayne picture, I lied that I was a good rider. So when I went to ride, they had a double, another girl. She did the riding in that, but I did the riding in all the rest. Those wranglers were really great, showing me what to do, or helping me a lot and I got to be a pretty good rider.”

Director John Farrow figured prominently in Pam’s career. “He was absolutely wonderful to me. I was called in for an interview. He had picked me for this picture with Anne Shirley. I worked on that and then another picture, ‘Full Confession’, which Victor McLaglen did. John Farrow directed it. He could be nice but he could also be (rough) if he didn’t like you. The only time he got mad at me was, he didn’t like one girl who was in the picture. (“Sorority House”) She was a girlfriend of a producer or somebody. He was so nasty to her, and she was very nice. So she was crying. Everything she’d do, he’d pick on. I went over and put my arm around her and said, ‘Oh, honey, don’t pay any attention to that. You’re great.’ Then he called me over for a scene and everything I did was wrong! He saw me talking to her and, oh, he… ‘You’re turning the wrong way, you’re doing this, you’re doing that.’ And I started crying over in a corner and…they can’t shoot the scene because I’m just not with it, and I had to be in it. I just waited until I got straightened up and wiped the tears away. When I went back, he was real nice. He told me he was being that way because I had a scene where  I don’t get accepted in a sorority and I’m supposed to try and kill myself, taking poison. It’s a real dramatic thing and he said the reason he had been that way was because he wanted to work me up for that scene. I had a very nice letter from him, after the picture.”

Although Farrow was good to Pam, she singles out Frank Tuttle as the best director when it came to helping her. “He put me in ‘This Gun For Hire’. I was fortunate with most directors I worked with. I was under contract for about six months. That was before ‘Gun For Hire’. When I wasn’t under contract, they used to call me quite a bit to come in and do bits and stuff at RKO. But Frank (Tuttle) sent for me for ‘Gun For Hire’. He had me tested actually for Veronica Lake’s part and not mine. I asked him if he would test me for the part I finally got…” Pam’s part was originally bigger but she says, “It was cut…Alan (Ladd) buys me a dress. He had slapped me and torn my dress and it’s the scene afterwards where I’m really telling him off and I didn’t want the dress.”

Pam and Alan Ladd--"The Gun For Hire" ('42 Paramount).It was “Paramount’s idea” Pam says to change her name from Adele Pearce to Pamela Blake. “We had read for a couple of days when Alan got the part in ‘Gun For Hire’. I was anxious to get the part of Annie, which I finally got. They thought if I changed my name maybe my luck would change, which it did. My Dad wasn't very happy about it—although he didn’t say anything. At the time it seemed like a good idea. I was sorry I did it afterwards. I liked the name Pearce, I didn’t like Adele very much.”

There’s been much speculation on how many actors were tested for the role of the cold blooded killer Ladd eventually got, but Pam claims, “Tuttle only tested two people. I had met Frank before and I knew his wife. I had read for Frank before, so he called and was going to do ‘This Gun For Hire’. He asked if I would read with the people. He was having them come up to the house. Sue Carol brought Alan up, and before that, it was another actor I can’t think of… He read and was pretty good. It was only between he and Alan at the time. They picked Alan right away. We re-tested for two days. He had terrific tests, in several scenes. So they picked him. After they tested me for the part, I didn’t hear anything for quite a little while, then the producer called and said, ‘Go over to wardrobe. You’ve got it.’”

The film was a major turning point for Pam. “I went to MGM from there and did a picture with Red Skelton and Ann Sothern. When I did the picture (“Maisie Gets Her Man”), Red was outstanding. He was funnier off the set than in the picture. He helped me…he kept turning me into the camera. He spoke highly of me around MGM. I was under contract for a year and they took it up for another year. But I wasn’t doing anything. I was on hiatus. I didn’t know it, because Louis B. didn’t confide in me that you weren’t supposed to leave town. At that time Mike Stokey…you may have seen some of his things…and I had gotten married. (Stokey, famous for “Pantomime Quiz”, and Pam were married in ‘43 and divorced in ‘48.) I wanted to be with him because he was going overseas. I was with him for a month. When I came back, I called my agent and he said, ‘I hate to tell you this, but they cancelled your contract.’ I said, ‘They can’t do that. What do you mean they cancelled my contract?’ And he said, ‘Well, you weren’t supposed to leave town.’ That was one of Louis B. Mayer’s rules. MGM had a drama coach everybody went to. Once you became established, which, unfortunately, I was not there long enough to be in that group, they did everything, they were wonderful. The training they got, I mean, everything they wanted. But there were rules and regulations.”

We wondered if, when Pam made “Omaha Trail” with James Craig, he was aware MGM was possibly grooming him in case Clark Gable got a little too uppity. Pam thought it “…possible. But I don’t think they were worried about Clark Gable getting too uppity…he was bringing in an awful lot of money.”

Pam’s marriage to Mike Stokey followed after an earlier marriage to B-Western stalwart Bud McTaggart. Pam explained, “When I was working the RKO pictures, Bud and I were married at that time. Bud died in a swimming accident in 1949. It was terrible. We had been divorced, in fact, he was remarried. I had talked to him a couple of weeks before. The pool was built out, there was cement on both sides of the diving board. Jack Beutel was there at the time. In fact, he went down to rescue Bud. I wasn’t there…but apparently Bud had said, ‘Watch this dive.’ He was always kidding around. As he dove, he hit the side of the pool. (Malcolm “Bud” McTaggart aka James Taggart, born in 1911, was only 38 when he died. He was in “Wyoming Outlaw” with Pam as well as many other B-Westerns with Tim Holt, Tim McCoy, Buster Crabbe, Don Barry and the Rough Riders.)

Pam seems genuinely surprised to learn she’s often referred to as a ‘serial queen’, having appeared in four cliffhangers. “That makes you a queen? Gee, nobody notified me…(Laughs)” Pam co-starred in “Mysterious Mr. M”, Universal’s last serial gasp. “I knew Dennis Moore. He lived down the street. I can’t characterize Denny. He could be real nice but he could be real nasty if he wanted to. I worked with Dennis several times, and to me, he was very nice.” She was in “The Sea Hound” with Buster Crabbe. “That was great. We had lots of fun. Unfortunately, I don’t think the producers were very happy because it rained most of the time we were on location at Catalina. So we just had fun playing cards and dancing. The thing I remember most, we had a lot of people from Hawaii on the set and they were doing a lot of stunts. They used to go fishing a lot and diving for lobster and abalone…and Buster invited me to go out with them. It was real early in the morning, freezing cold. He and a couple of the other guys would dive in the water and it was just ice cold. They’d come up scratched and bloody but they’d always have a couple of them (abalone) in their hands. The first thing Buster would say…give me a drink.” (No doubt to warm him up.) “I didn’t drink at that time…but he was great to work with, everybody was fun. We were only supposed to be there about a week and we were there a couple of months.”

Buster Crabbe, Hugh Prosser and Pamela Blake examine a map on this Ch. 2 title card for the 1947 Columbia serial "The Sea Hound".

Pam clutches to a masked Clayton Moore as "The Ghost of Zorro" ('48 Republic).As for Republic’s “Ghost of Zorro”, Pam recalls, “The studio was great. I love Republic. And everybody out there was wonderful. Seemed like a small town.”

Since Pam had worked with so many of the greats of Hollywood, I decided to just throw out some names and ask her to, in one word or so, tell me what she thought of them.
Leon Erroll? “A great comedian.”

Robert Lowery? “Good. Better actor than he ever got credit for.”

 

Pam also made "Son of God's Country" ('48) at Republic with Monte Hale (left) and Jay Kirby (center).

Carole Lombard and Alfred Hitchcock whom she worked with in “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” in 1941. “She was great, but I didn’t get to know her. She was with Hitchcock all the time. In fact, Hitchcock never said a word to me…but I was so thrilled, the idea of working with Hitchcock. I didn’t have that much to do in it… During the scene, I think he was talking to Carole most of the time. He may have said, ‘Come in the door’ or something, and ‘say this’…but as for learning a lot…No.”

Don Barry? “Don had problems, but I wasn’t really aware of it until it happened.” (Barry committed suicide in 1980.)

Title card for "Gunfire" starring Don Barry.

Hugh Beaumont? “Hugh was very, very nice. He was a minister at a church out in the Valley.”

Joe Kirkwood, Jr.? Joe Palooka in the Monogram series. “He was a big kid…good golfer…perfect for the part. Even looked like Joe Palooka.”

Pamela Blake, Jack Holt and Lash LaRue in "The Daltons' Women" ('50 Western Adventure).When television came along, Pam did the “Cisco Kid”, a couple of “Range Rider” episodes with Jocko Mahoney and a “Front Page Detective” with Edmund Lowe, but no more. Pam explained why. “I wasn’t seeing the children enough. Actually, when I divorced Mike, I came out to Las Vegas. I had to stay for six weeks, so I met quite a few people. I liked it and just wanted to be with the kids. I only intended to stay a couple of months or so, but I found a house here and brought the children up.

Bill Elliott in protective mode for Pam in "Waco" ('52 Monogram).

Pam’s son, Mike, is in the business now, actually getting into the movies by being in Vietnam. “Did three tours there. He was injured. Thank God, he came back. He’d been in the service with a guy in the business who does a lot of demolition work. He got Mike started into demolition work in films…what he’s doing now. He’s done about four pretty big pictures with Oliver Stone and others.”

As to her over 20 year career in show business, Pam’s most proud of her role in “Unknown Guest” at Monogram in 1943. “I loved working with Victor Jory. That was fun…“Omaha Trail” was a pretty good Western, as Westerns go…and in ‘Gun For Hire’, that was a good scene. I even got a good notice in New York for that.”

As far as we’re concerned, Pam gets great notices for all her screen work—but especially for being a great, down to earth lady whom we lost on October 6, 2009 at 94.

Pam waves on this publicity still for MGM's "Omaha Trail" ('42).

Pamela’s Western Filmography


Movies: Utah Trail (‘38 Grand National)—Tex Ritter; Wyoming Outlaw (‘39 Republic)—3 Mesquiteers; Omaha Trail (‘42 MGM)—James Craig; Son of God’s Country (‘48 Republic)—Monte Hale; Dalton’s Women (‘50 Western Adventure)—Lash LaRue; Gunfire (‘50 Lippert)—Don Barry; Border Rangers (‘50 Lippert)—Don Barry; Waco (‘52 Monogram)—Bill Elliott; Adventures of the Texas Kid (‘54 Franklin)—Hugh Hooker. Serials: Ghost of Zorro (‘48 Republic)—Clayton Moore. TV: Cisco Kid: Big Switch (‘51); Cisco Kid: Railroad Land Rush (‘51);          Cisco Kid: Renegade Son (‘51); Range Rider: Secret of Superstition Peak (‘52); Range Rider: Holy Terror (‘52); Range Rider: West of Cheyenne (‘53).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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