The Courier-Journal from Louisville, Kentucky on January 15, 1989 · Page 23
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The Courier-Journal from Louisville, Kentucky · Page 23

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Louisville, Kentucky
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Sunday, January 15, 1989
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Page 23
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er's side were born in Kentucky in 1 8 1 7." Furthermore, he says, Monroe's direct ancestors arrived in the state with Daniel Boone. More Monroe ties to the state, Harrison promises, will be revealed in his book. As for Presley, Harrison says Elvis' grandfather, Jesse Presley, lived in Kentucky for 40 years. One of Harrison's most touching anecdotes concerns character actress Una Merkel, who was born in Covington, began her career in the films of D. W. Griffith and earned an Oscar nomination for her performance in "Summer and Smoke." While researching Merkel's life and career, Harrison visited her burial site at Highland Cemetery in Fort Mitchell, Ky., and was astonished to learn that, despite Merkel's fame, her grave had no marker. He says that, after persuading the cemetery to establish a "Una Merkel Memorial Fund," he personally wrote to 25 of the stars of Merkel's era asking for donations. Only one Ann Rutherford responded, sending along a donation of $25. Through other contributions, however, the fund reached more than $400, and a monument was ordered. Harrison tells a similar story about comedian Rags Ragland, a Louisville native who appeared in some two dozen MGM comedies and musicals: "Rags acted with the best of them, and when he died in 1946, Phil Silvers delivered his eulogy and Frank Sinatra sang. The body was then shipped back to Louisville for burial on an uncle's plot in Evergreen Cemetery. To this day, Rags does not have any kind of marker. What a shame that people who gave so much in life should receive so little in death!" Nostalgia Notes A Star Is Found: One of the all-but-forgotten former luminaries who will be featured in Warder Harrison's book about Kentucky celebrities is Joyce Compton, a Lexington native who appeared in more than 200 films from the mid-1 920s to the late '50s. Compton played a few leads but more often ended up in flashy supporting parts. Her credits include such famous films as "Only Yesterday," with Margaret Sullavan; "Imitation of Life," with Claudette Colbert; "The Awful Truth," with Irene Dunne and Cary Grant; "Rose of Washington Square," with Alice Faye; "Mildred Pierce" with Joan Crawford, "The Best Years of Our Lives," with Fredric March and Myrna Loy; and "Christmas in Connecticut" and "Sorry, Wrong Number," both with Barbara Stanwyck. One of Compton's biggest roles came in "Sky Murder," a 1940 detective yarn in which she had the lead opposite Walter Pidgeon. Though typecast as "Hollywood's favorite dumb blonde," she was known off-screen as being quiet, serious and religious. Aside from a Courier-Journal Magazine story about Compton in 1949 (in which writer David Regan said that meeting her was "like picking up a volume that sports the dust jacket of 'The Egg and I' and reads like 'War and Peace'), Harrison could find little written information about her. Failing to locate an address for her, he feared she was dead. In pursuing another matter, however, he happened to come into contact with Michael G. Ankerich, a writer who not only knew Compton but also was working with her on a biography. Harrison since has entered into correspondence with Compton. "I am glad you are striving for accuracy in your information," she wrote recently from her home in Sherman Oaks, Calif. "I've been especially bugged by whoever it was that started a rumor that my real name was Eleanor Hunt. Others writing about me have picked up and repeated this error. My full, only and correct name is Olivia Joyce Compton." Then came this bit of biographical detail: "I was born on Jan. 27, 1907, at 6 a.m. on a cold, snowy morning to my parents, Golden and Henry Compton (although my mom and the family called Dad 'Harold' or 'Hal'). And the doc charged $5 for my delivery." Compton ended her letter on a wistful note: "I think you are asking for my memories at the right time for I feel I will soon be moving on to meet my very dear ancestors! And I look forward to my eternal home in my Lord's realm." Mail questions to "ShowTalk," The Courier-Journal Magazine, 525 W. Broadway, Louisville, Ky. 40202. The time required to research answers make telephone inquiries unfeasible. Questions published will be those with the widest general interest. Acres & Acres. every apartment has a view of our beautifully landscaped campus. fi-. -.f-m-it tens-. Where Retirement Conies To Life! Y Westminster Village r n . Retirement vommunuy 3200 Greentrct North Clariuville. Indiana 47130 (812)282-9691 Trouble getting around? An Electric Cart Can Be Yours f"RtE "I will send you WRITTEN coverage information before delivery." 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