Ann Blyth, LC, Janet Leigh
LIZ GETS TO WORK IN THE MOVIES, SORTA.
Here’s the backstory that explains why she was so excited to meet the movie legends she did. Ann Blyth, Janet Leigh, Jane Powell, Jane Russell, Ann Jeffries, Rhonda Fleming, and Celeste Holm.
She was tickled to get to be a movie extra more than a couple of times. Like when Hollywood came to film in Cleveland i.e., “Welcome to Collinwood”. Then in journalist Scott Lax’s novel-turned-into-movie titled, “The Year That Trembled”.
It started on a dare from her sister Wanda Gray, a movie extra herself.
The love of movies started in her childhood. Her family’s great love of movies helped Liz enjoy most of her childhood leisure time, for it was spent at the movies, of course. Called the cheapest of all babysitters back then was what was also called, in the language of the trade, movies on “the grind”. (That’s when they had the features showing “on the grind” i.e., at 2:00, 4,6, 8, 10)
That love affair continued when, besides being able to spend time as a teen in those old movie palaces, she got to work in those haunts (while still in high school). After graduating from John Adams High School, she continued part-time along with modeling at some of Cleveland’s most popular department stores like Bonwit Teller, Halle Brothers and Sterling Lindner Davis. At SLD, she worked up in rank to manage leased departments like “Better Jewelry” and their “Portrait Studio” (where she was the photographer, too.)
When this start of a career in Leased Retail was jeopardized with the closing of the store, she was fortunate to segue into a job that had her incorporating many things. That time was pre Womens Lib, so that meant it was mandatory (pardon the pun) for a good trophy-type-secretary to look presentable. Good jewelry albeit costume along with nice attire helped, too. (That, Liz had thanks to leaving most of her pay at work, in Sterling’s “Better Dresses” and “Better Jewelry” Departments.) It probably didn’t hurt having a good wardrobe.
But it was really her love of movies, her photographer’s eye and her penchant for promotion… that got her the offer of a dream job. She became secretary to the then-manager of The Colony Theatre.
It was while working for Bill Lanese, that Liz loved learning more about movies and how they were marketed at the theater level, i.e., opening nights, benefits, galas, etc. (All those parties that she had to dress up for!) Then Lanese left Cleveland to relocate to the west coast, to work in the related field of movie promotion, this time on his own. It got back that Bill made it BIG… as a publicist… but how big? Bill Lanese Advertising became one of the biggest and most respected P.R. firms handling all the major studios. So well thought of was he, that they funded the startup of his firm. That’s the kind of impact some can only hope to make. Bill did it.
Told then by RKO’s Joe Alexander that she was one of their first female movie theatre managers (obstinately to get her to say yes, no doubt) Liz took on the challenge of running both theaters, splitting her time between them. When they had the blockbusting premiere of “The Exorcist” at the Vogue, she knew she had to have more help. She already had it in the form of two now-famous or in-famous (depending on whom one talks to) movie maniacs, Morrie Zryl and Sylvia Sheer, both now of Blessed memory.