The 32D ‘Red Arrow’ Veteran Association

Description: WW2 32d Division Insignia

The

32D ‘Red Arrow’ Division’s

Hollywood Connections

(and the entertainment industry in general)

 

Description: flag-thin

 

1)      

Antonio ‘Tony’ Campanaro (Campinero, Campanero), actor, WWI.

Antonio Campanaro was born on 16 November 1888 (or 1887) at San Polo Matese, Campobasso, Molise, Italy, and emigrated in 1909 with the intent of working in movies at Hollywood, California.

Private Campanaro was an established actor before he served with Company C, 127TH Infantry, during WWI.  Capt. Paul W. Schmidt, Commander of Company C, recognized Campanaro from his appearances on the big screen and when he wrote his unit’s history, Co. C, 127th Infantry, in the World War, he mentioned the most famous Soldier in his unit:

“…Tony Campinero [sic], movie actor, whose face is well known to movie fans, as “Tony the Wop.”  Tony was identified with the Universal Film Company before the war and he and his monkey never failed to provoke laughter, in every picture in which they appeared.

“Tony did not stop his funny antics when he entered the U.S. Army, but continued to amuse us until he lost a leg at Juvigny.  He was struck by a piece of high explosive shell which shattered his leg so badly that it was necessary to amputate.  If Tony’s moving picture days are over, movie fans will miss the face of this clever actor. (Schmidt 145-6)

Private Campanaro was likely wounded in action circa 28-31 August 1918 if he was wounded at Juvigny; he is listed on the 5 October 1918 War Department casualty list.

Information regarding Tony Campanaro’s pre-war movie career has proven elusive.  It is an objectionable term, but “Tony the Wop” seems to have been a common character name in film credits in the early 20th Century.  I am not positive, but it seems possible that Captain Schmidt may have been referring to the movie, Tony the Wop, released by the Nestor Film Company on 16 August 1915.  The Moving Picture World, on 16 August 1915, described it as “A laughable one-reel comedy, in which a baby and the Italian’s bread-winning monkey are the actors of the mistaken identity motive. Lively playing by Lee Moran, Eddie Lyons, Victoria Forde and the rest of the cast, insures the success of the film.”  Specific details of the movie’s story line and cast are sparse on the internet.  It may be a stretch, but the name of the movie, combined with the trained monkey, given Campanaro’s later acclaim as an animal trainer for the film industry, lead to my presumption of a connection.

The Nestor Film Company was Hollywood’s first permanent movie studio, after moving to the West Coast as an offshoot of an East Coast movie company in 1909.  Nestor merged with the Universal Film Company circa 1912 but continued to produce movies under its own name for several more years.

Campanaro returned to Hollywood after recovering from his war-time injuries.  Most of his approximately 86 post-war film credits were behind the scenes as an animal trainer for Hal Roach, but he did have a few acting roles as well.  He worked on Dippy-Doo-Dads (a film short series with an all-monkey cast), most of the Our Gang/Little Rascals shorts, numerous Laurel & Hardy movies, as well as movies with Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, et al.

He trained a wide variety of animals for movies, including Pete, the bulldog from Our Gang, Diana the mule, Bonzo the duck, Prof. Peppy the monkey, even Mildred the goldfish.

Information regarding his personal life has also proven elusive.  Some references state he married a woman named Maria and was father of at least one child named Rosa.  Antonio Campanaro passed away on 12 March 1965 at Los Angeles, California.

2)      

Waldo Bruce (or Brian) Donlevy, actor, stage/screen name Brian Waldo Donlevy, WWI.

Waldo B. Donlevy was born on 8 February 1901 at Cleveland, Ohio, the son of Thomas Henry and Rebecca (Parks) Donlevy.  His mother was an Irish immigrant; his father was born at Massachusetts.  Thomas was a superintendent in several woolen mills in New England and Ohio before the family moved to Beaver Dam, Wisconsin circa 1910, when Waldo was in 4th grade, about 9 years old.

Waldo was adopted as a mascot by Company K, 2D Wisconsin Infantry, Wisconsin National Guard, at Beaver Dam at about age 10 because he liked to hang around the armory so much.  Some references suggest he may have even attended an annual encampment at Camp Douglas, Wisconsin, with the unit circa 1911 or 1912.

The Donlevy family moved to Sheboygan Falls, Wisconsin, circa 1912 when Thomas was hired as superintendent of Brickner Woolen Mill.  Waldo helped form the first Boy Scout troop at Sheboygan Falls when he was in 7th grade, about age 12.  He became a bugler in the local Boy Scout Fife, Drum and Bugle Corps.

Waldo enlisted in Company C, 2D Wisconsin Infantry, Wisconsin National Guard, at Sheboygan, Wisconsin, prior to June 1916 at age 15.  He was only a sophomore in high school; it is not clear if he had his parents’ consent or just lied about his age.  He served as a bugler in that unit at Camp Wilson, Texas, during the Mexican Border Crisis.  The unit returned home from the border in March 1917, only to be mobilized again on 15 July 1917 for WWI.  Bugler Donlevy was assigned to Company C, 127TH Infantry, when the 32D Division was organized at Camp MacArthur, Texas.  Information about his service in France is difficult to find, but he served in all of the Division’s campaigns, the Army of Occupation in Germany, and was discharged in 1919.

After the war, he returned home and went back to finish high school.  He played basketball and football, performed in the drum and bugle corps, wrote for the school paper, and also wrote poems, stories and songs.  He reportedly became a professional writer as a junior in high school; he wrote a weekly column for the Sheboygan County News under the name of Don Levy.  As a senior he wrote his first play, Buddies, partly based on his wartime experiences.  He acted in and directed the school’s performance of the play, it was well-received by the local audience.  He graduated Sheboygan Falls High School in 1921.

Donlevy was admitted to the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis on 26 July 1921, but he resigned on 8 March 1922.

He moved to New York to try to get into show business.  He worked as an advertising model while waiting for his big break, appeared in ads for collars, cigarettes, socks, soap, etc.  His first real break came when he earned a role in What Price Glory? on Broadway in September 1924.  He performed on Broadway for about 12 years and also had minor roles in some movies filmed in New York.

Donlevy moved to Hollywood circa 1935 to appear in his first major film, Barbary Coast, and became a successful supporting actor in many well-known films.  He was nominated for an Academy Award for his portrayal of Sergeant Markoff in Beau Geste.  He was reportedly selected for the lead in Sahara, but Humphrey Bogart performed that role in the movie.  He also reportedly wrote Leaves in the Wind, a book of poetry, using the pen name of Porter Down, circa 1940.

He was featured in at least one film with another actor who had served with the 32D Division during WWI; he and Richard Lane appeared together in Fandango in 1946.

Donlevy also appeared on television, including live television in New York in the 1950s as well as the television series Dangerous Assignment.  His last film was Pit Stop in 1969. IMDb.com lists at least 121 films and television shows in which he appeared.

While visiting Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in August 1944, he spent some time visiting wounded service members at the veterans’ hospital at Wood, WI (now known as the Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center).  He was a member of Post No. 605 of American Legion at Malibu, California, and is depicted with other post members installing Legion safety signs in American Legion Magazine in January 1954.

Donlevy had three wives.  He married Yvonne Grey, a New York showgirl, in 1928, the marriage ended in a Las Vegas divorce circa 1936.  He married Marjorie Lane, a singer, on 24 December 1936.  They had a daughter before the marriage ended in a messy and public Hollywood divorce in 1947.  In 1966 he married Lillian (Arch) Lugosi, the ex-wife of Bela Lugosi.

Donlevy passed away on 5 April 1972 at Woodland Hills, California.  There was no public funeral; he was cremated and his ashes strewn at sea.

There is a vast amount of misinformation about this man’s life and career regurgitated on the internet and in various books.  Most of the inaccuracies have been attributed to the overactive imaginations of anonymous Hollywood publicity agents.

Various references list the year of his birth as 1899, 1902, 1903, 1904, or 1905.  His place of birth is prominently listed as Portadown, County Armagh, Ireland, in many references, although other places of birth include somewhere in New England, or Michigan, or even Ripon, Wisconsin.  While not really born in Ireland, he did visit relatives there with his mother when he was age 3 and age 12-13.  Some references that play up his supposed Irish birth claim that his father worked as a whiskey distiller in Ireland.

Myths surrounding his military service are also numerous.  There are many claims that he served during the Mexican Border Crisis with either the Regular Army or the Wisconsin National Guard as young as the age of 12.  Then, supposedly, he traveled to France on his own at age 14, joined the Lafayette Escadrille, flew in combat for 3 years, and was twice wounded in action in the air, including once in the head.  It seems odd that none of those myths attempt to claim that he shot down the Red Barron.

At least one reference offers an unsubstantiated claim that Donlevy served as a flight instructor in the Army Air Force during WWII.  That does not seem feasible if he made at least a dozen movies during the war, but it cannot be entirely ruled out without additional information.

3)      

Robert A. Hellard, composer/song writer, WWI.

Robert A. Hellard was born on 22 December 1877 at Oshkosh, Wisconsin, the son of Robert and Mary (Seville) Hellard.  Both of his parents were English immigrants.  He worked at the Oshkosh Times, before joining the City News Room, his father’s newsroom and book binding shop at 14 Washington Street, Oshkosh.  The shop was “located very conveniently for the general public, being opposite the Post Office, on Washington street, and contains innumerable articles belonging to the trade and usually kept by a first-class newsdealer.  A few of these are daily and weekly newspapers, magazines and periodicals, blank books, writing material of every description, fancy goods and toys, cigars and general book binding, the latter being his [the father’s] lifelong trade.”  Robert took over the business in 1905, after his father passed away.  The business moved to 14 ½ Waugoo Street and was renamed Hellard’s Blank Book Company in 1910.  He also wrote sheet music and songs.

He enlisted as a private in the Wisconsin National Guard at Oshkosh.  He served as a supply sergeant in Supply Company, 2D Wisconsin Infantry, during the Mexican Border Crisis.  He was commissioned second lieutenant in Supply Company on 28 July 1917.  Second Lieutenant Hellard was assigned to Supply Company, 127TH Infantry, when the 32D Division was organized.  He was promoted to first lieutenant at some point.  Lieutenant Hellard was evacuated to a hospital on 2 November 1918; it’s not clear if he was wounded or sick.  He was a captain in the post-war Wisconsin National Guard reserve.

After the war, Robert worked as a piano tuner and composer in Oshkosh.  He composed numerous songs (most for piano) and sold his sheet music.  Some of his songs were used in movies.

Some of his many songs include: “The Chauffeur,” 1905; “Morning,” a waltz, 1907; “The Bucking Broncho,” 1907; “Captain in Command,” a march, 1907; “Company B March and Two-step,” likely circa WWI; “Lovey-dovey,” 1925; “Lumiere d’Amour,” 1940; “Under the Stars,” 1940; “Pink Peonies,” 1941; “Dolly's Bedtime Story,” 1941; “Crimson Leaves,” 1942; “Little Bird’s Morning Song,” 1942; “Little Colonel,” 1942; “Purple Lilacs,” 1944; “Saucy Sunflowers,” 1944; “Little Commander,” a march, 1946.

Rendered partially or completely blind later in life, he passed away on 27 December 1960.  Firefighters found him dead in his burning home at 725 Mt. Vernon Street in Oshkosh.  The authorities believed that he had suffered a heart attack and his cigarette started the fire.  He lies interred at Riverside Cemetery, Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

4)      

Lloyd W. ‘Abie’ Johnson, actor, stage/screen name Richard ‘Dick’ Lane, WWI.

Lloyd W. Johnson was born 28 May 1899 on the family farm at Jackson County, Wisconsin, or possibly Eau Claire, Wisconsin.  His father briefly went to work for the Minnesota Harvester Company at Eau Claire in 1899, it’s not clear if his wife and children accompanied him or stayed on the farm.  Many references state he was born at Rice Lake, Wisconsin, but the family didn’t move to a farm there until 1903.  Some references state he was born at Price, Wisconsin.  He was the son of John H. and Annetta (Thompson) Johnson, both parents were Norwegian immigrants.

Johnson enlisted in Machine Gun Company, 3D Wisconsin Infantry, Wisconsin National Guard, at Rice Lake circa June 1916 at the age of 17.  He reportedly convinced his father to write a letter stating he was 18 so he could enlist.  Some references state he enlisted at age 16, so he may have enlisted prior to 28 May.  He served as a bugler in that unit during the Mexican Border Crisis.

He was also with that unit when it mobilized again for WWI on 15 July 1917.  That unit became Company A, 121ST Machine Gun Battalion, when the 32D Division was organized.  Johnson was seriously injured at some point during the war, to include a spinal injury; it’s unclear if he was wounded in action or injured in an accident.  He returned to Rice Lake with the unit on 24 May 1919.  He joined the American Legion at some point.

Johnson moved to Denver, Colorado in the early 1920s to become an actor in a stock company.  He joined the Henry Duffy stock company at some point, but it’s not clear if that is the one he started out with.  He soon adopted the stage name of Richard ‘Dick’ Lane and toured the country acting in plays, musicals, and vaudeville.

There are numerous claims that he left home at a very young age to enter vaudeville, the circus, or some other form of show business; these are likely just creative writing by publicity agents.  One reference asserts that he left home “at the ripe age of 15 to conquer the world of theater.”  Another states he “started his career on the stage at the age of 8, his summers during his school period being spent on show boats or with repertoire companies touring the middle west.”  Another is sure that “by his teenage years, he was doing an “iron jaw” routine in circuses around Europe and worked as a drummer touring with a band in Australia.”  A different reference says, “After starting out as a boy actor with a third rate tent show touring his home state, and later getting into a trouping musical comedy, he quit the stage” to enlist in the Wisconsin National Guard at age 16.

He had to give up acting when he fell seriously ill, including partial paralysis, due to effects of his war-time injuries.  Doctors gave him 6 months to live, but he recovered and resumed his acting career.  He believed that his faith was the key to his recovery.

One of his earliest major roles may have been “the leading juvenile role in “White Cargo,”” a play that premiered in 1923.  His first film appearance was a minor role in Listen Lester circa 1924, but it looks like he appeared in few, if any, other movies until about 1936.  He then performed with Fanchon and Marco circa the mid-1920s before performing at Dalton’s Broadway Theater in Los Angeles for a couple of years.  He later appeared at New York’s Palace Theatre on Broadway, the most prestigious venue for vaudeville performers.  His performance there reportedly led to a role in Al Jolson’s Big Boy, either the live musical which ran at several theaters in the New York area from 7 January 1924 until 3 December 1926, or the 1930 film version, probably the former.

He appeared at the Cass Theater in Detroit in August 1929 while touring as the male lead in the musical, A Connecticut Yankee.  His future wife, Esther Lloyd, was also a member of the cast.  They were married circa 1929-30 and they later adopted a girl and a boy in 1944.

Richard then toured with Texas Guinan for a couple of years.  Known as ‘The Queen of the West,’ she was a colorful woman who sang, acted in vaudeville, the theater, and films, produced revues, and ran a profitable speakeasy during prohibition.  She passed away on the road during the tour of her Too Hot for Paris show on 5 November 1933.  Richard’s next show was Fifty Million Frenchmen, a musical comedy that toured the country in 1933-34, his wife was also a member of the cast.  Then he worked with Martha Raye in vaudeville, until she received a movie contract.  Richard then landed a role in the 1936 edition of “George White’s Scandals” on Broadway, his talent in that show led to his first movie contract with RKO.

Richard Lane’s movie career took off in 1936.  He appeared in They’re Off, a film short released in January of 1936, and at least four other shorts that year.  His first credited role in a feature film was the character High-Grade in “The Outcasts of Poker Flats,” released in April of 1937.  He appeared in at least thirteen features and two shorts in 1937.

After he witnessed earlier, renowned actors die nearly penniless, he decided to invest in diverse interests in an attempt to avoid meeting the same fate in his old age.  Over the years, his non-acting interests included serving as President of Landon Products, Inc., manufacturer of paint and varnish removers; Director of Lacto Seal Corp., manufacturer of machinery to make milk bottle caps; owning contracts of several professional wrestlers; founder of the Dated Date Bar Co. and sole owner of the formula for the candy bars; half interest in a New York dentist; a venetian blind factory; a saloon where wrestlers worked as bartenders; an automobile dealership; raising silver foxes; real estate; etc.

He became a renowned, freelance character actor in Hollywood, one of the most prolific actors at the time.  Due to his talent, reputation, and reliability, he could command 2 or 3 weeks’ pay for 1 days’ work.  He appeared in about 283 movies and worked with many popular actors, including Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra, Jack Benny, Edward G. Robinson, Three Stooges, Laurel and Hardy, Abbott and Costello, et al.  During WWII he appeared in at least 456 USO-type shows across the country by November of 1944.

He was featured in at least one film with another actor who had served with the 32D Division during WWI; he and Brian W. Donlevy appeared together in Fandango in 1946.

Richard Lane also worked in radio and was an early television pioneer.  He started as a sportscaster for professional wrestling on Los Angeles television in March of 1945; he covered midget car racing, roller derby, and wrestling into the 1970s.  As a newsman, he covered the first airing of an atomic explosion.  He also acted on some television shows.  He was nominated for an Emmy in 1951 for his role on Dixie Showboat.

A few of his last movie roles included a roller derby sportscaster in Kansas City Bomber with Raquel Welch in 1972, a roller rink announcer in The Shaggy D.A. in 1976, and a cameo in the pro-wrestling spoof The One and Only in 1978.

Richard Lane passed away on 5 September 1982 at Newport Beach, California, and lies interred at Pacific View Memorial Park, Corona del Mar, California.

He was inducted into the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame in 1996 and the Southern California Pro-Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2002.

5)      

James Edward Myers, musician, band leader, songwriter, composer, actor, publisher, film producer, film director, pseudonym Jimmy De Knight, WWII. [added 11 Nov. ’16, TPB]

James Edward Myers was born 26 October 1919 at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of James J. and Estelle M. (Winters) Myers.  He is listed as James E. on 1930 census, but is listed as James J., Jr. on 1940 census.  He worked as a checker at Pennsylvania Fruit when the 1940 census was taken.

Myers entered service on 18 February 1942 at Fort George G. Meade, SN 33142216.  Trained at Camp Roberts, CA before sailing for Australia.  Assigned to Company K, 128TH Infantry at Buna and served with the 32D Infantry Division from 1942 until 1946.  He earned the rank of sergeant before he earned a battlefield commission to second lieutenant.  He later described his wartime experiences in Hell is a Foxhole in 1966. [updated 14 Nov. ’16, TPB]

Myers started playing drums around the age of two and became a professional musician and band leader at age 14 with Jimmy Myers & the Truckadeers Orchestra.  The band later changed its name to Jimmy De Knight & His Knights of Rhythm.  He used the pseudonym Jimmy De Knight to write music.

He no longer played music after he returned from the war, but he still wrote songs and he created Myers Music, Inc. to publish them.  He also created Cowboy Records and went into music production.  He also became a music promoter and booked bands.

Myers wrote over 300 songs, but he is best known for the iconic song, “We’re Gonna Rock Around the Clock,” which, as Jimmy De Knight, he co-wrote with Max C. Freedman.  The song, best known by its shortened title, “Rock Around the Clock,” was copyrighted on 31 Mar. ‘53 by Myers Music at Philadelphia, PA.  Bill Haley & His Comets were not the first to record the song, but their version, released in ’54, was the biggest hit by far.  The song’s popularity really took off after it was used as the theme song of 1955’s The Blackboard Jungle.

Heeding the advice of his doctor, Myers withdrew from the stress of the music scene.  He later moved to Hollywood and worked as an actor, director, and producer.  He had acting roles in four of the Rocky films, The China Syndrome, King Kong, and more.  His television appearances include Laverne & Shirley, The Waltons, CHiPs, Sanford & Son, The Dukes of Hazzard, and more.

After 20 years in Hollywood, he moved back home to Philadelphia to care for his aged mother.  He also formed James E. Myers Enterprises and got back into music.  He wrote more songs, primarily Country and Gospel, and continued to produce and promote music.

James E. Myers passed away, leukemia, on 10 May 2001 at Bonita Springs, Florida, and lies interred at Philadelphia.

6)      

Howard R. Winterbottom, set decorator, WWI. [added 11 Nov. ’16, TPB]

Howard R. Winterbottom was born 7 April 1893 at Vermont, the son of Frank and Mary Edith (Barrett) Winterbottom, father was a Canadian immigrant.  His family resided at Smithtown Branch, Long Island, NY, when he entered the service.

He served as a stable sergeant with the 107TH Engineer Train, but some references state the 107TH Engineer Regiment.  He survived the sinking of the Tuscania after it was torpedoed by a German submarine off the coast of Scotland on 5 February 1918.  Stable Sergeant Winterbottom earned the French Croix de Guerre.

He married Gladys and they resided at 5927 Reseda Boulevard, Los Angeles, California at the 1940 Census.  Winterbottom worked as a set decorator for at least nine movies in Hollywood from at least 1946 to at least 1949.  He passed away on 9 June 1952 and lies interred at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Los Angeles, California.

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Bibliography:

Schmidt, Paul W., Captain.  Co. C, 127th Infantry, in the World War.  Sheboygan, WI: Press Publishing Co., 1919.

Thisted, Moses N., Lieutenant Colonel.  Wisconsin Troops in Federalized National Guard, Mexican Border Service, June 22, 1916, January 19, 1917.  Circa 1976.

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revised 14 November 2016

created 7 May 2016