When growing up in the 70’s we had an afternoon TV program called “Dialing For Dollars”. I was suppose to be doing homework but my afternoon was watching the host as he called a house and asked them the ‘count and the amount” of the money they had to give. To get us to watch this show, besides winning cash, we were asked to watch old movies. Many were bad “B” movie sci-fi but we were graced once a week to a Tarzan movie.
One of these classics was the film “Tarzan Finds a Son (1939) ” with Johnny Weissmuller playing Tarzan. In the film the plane of a young couple and their baby crashes in the jungle. Everyone on the plane dies, except for the baby who is rescued, by Cheeta, Tarzan’s chimpanzee. Tarzan and Jane adopt the child and name him “Boy”. Jane was played by the legendary Maureen O’Sullivan and the mother of the child was played by a new actress whose name was Laraine Day.
Laraine Day has taken her Final Taxi at age 87. Day appeared in over 80 films and TV shows during her career. She was also voted most promising film star in 1940 by American distributors.Day began her stage career with the Long Beach Players in 1931. A talent scout saw her there and got her a contract with the Goldwyn studios, for whom she made her cinema debut in the celebrated Barbara Stanwyck drama, Stella Dallas (1937). She had four lines. RKO offered her the female lead, billed as Laraine Johnson, opposite George O’Brien in three minor westerns: Border G-Men, Painted Desert and Arizona Legion, before she went to MGM in 1939 and became Laraine Day. Her first role there was as a lively Irish lass, the adopted daughter of cop Wallace Beery in “Sergeant Madden.” That same year she signed with the Dr Kildare series. (These were films that were replaced with TV soap operas.)
“Calling Dr Kildare (1939)”, in which Day played Mary Lamont, a nurse who becomes involved in a murder case with Dr Kildare (Lew Ayres), was the second of the studio’s series featuring the young doctor and his gruff mentor Dr Gillespie (Lionel Barrymore), and Day remained as Kildare’s love interest for six more films until, in “Dr Kildare’s Wedding Day (1941)”, Mary was fatally struck by a truck on the day she was to wed the doctor.
Day’s performance was so affecting that the studio was inundated with letters from grieving fans. In order to console them, MGM cast her again opposite Lew Ayres in “Fingers at the Window (1942)”, hoping to create a husband-and-wife detective duo to rival “The Thin Man.”
Day was lent out to United Artists for Alfred Hitchcock’s second Hollywood movie, Foreign Correspondent (1940). She played the daughter of Herbert Marshall, who heads a peace organization, although she does not know that it is a front for fifth columnists. Joel McCrea, on the run with her from Nazi agents, says: “I’m in love with you and I want to marry you.” She replies: “I’m in love with you and I want to marry you!” “That cuts our love scene down quite a bit, doesn’t it?” he retorts. The film received 6 Oscar nominations.
Day was excellent as a rich socialite whom gambler Cary Grant tries to fleece in Mr Lucky (1943), and, in Cecil B DeMille’s The Story of Dr Wassell (1944), she provided sterling support as a nurse to Gary Cooper’s missionary doctor in Java during the war.
Other credits include “I Take This Woman” with Spencer Tracy, “Unholy Partners” with Edward G. Robinson and John Wayne’s “The High and the Mighty.” She also hosted a TV program called “The Laraine Day Show (1951)”
For her contribution to the motion picture industry, Laraine Day has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.