Monday, June 29, 2009

'My Little Margie' Dies

From Dennie McLellan in the Los Angeles Times:
Gale Storm, a Texas native who landed in Hollywood after winning a national talent search and later shot to the top on television as the vivacious star of two popular 1950s situation comedies, "My Little Margie" and "The Gale Storm Show: Oh! Susanna," has died. She was 87.Storm, who also had a successful recording career during her TV heyday, died Saturday of natural causes at a convalescent hospital in the Northern California community of Danville, according to her son Peter Bonnell.
A summer replacement for "I Love Lucy," "My Little Margie" ran from 1952 to 1955, with Storm starring as the plucky young Margie Albright and Charles Farrell as her handsome widower father, Vern, who shared his Fifth Avenue apartment with her.Although critics generally panned "My Little Margie" as a lightweight farce, the public fell in love with the mischievous Margie. A 1953 poll of the most popular TV stars listed Storm at No. 2, behind TV comedy queen Lucille Ball.After "My Little Margie" ended, Storm starred in "The Gale Storm Show: Oh! Susanna," in which she played social director Susanna Pomeroy aboard the luxury liner the SS Ocean Queen. The situation comedy, featuring Zasu Pitts as the ship's flighty beautician Elvira "Nugey" Nugent and Roy Roberts as Capt. Huxley, ran from 1956 to 1960. . . .
Storm, who received three stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame recognizing her work in TV, radio and recording, saw her career decline dramatically after her second series ended in 1960.She kept busy with summer stock and dinner theater, starring in productions such as "Forty Carats," "The Unsinkable Molly Brown," "South Pacific," "Finian's Rainbow," "Cactus Flower" and "Plaza Suite.""My whole life has been a pattern of success," Storm told The Times in 1981. "So many marvelous things that I would never even have dreamt of wishing for [have] happened to me."
But there also was an unexpectedly dramatic downside.In 1980, she returned to the limelight as the commercial spokeswoman for Raleigh Hills Hospital, the now-defunct alcohol treatment chain where she had been treated for a serious bout with alcoholism.Alcoholism, she told The Times in 1988, "is a disease of denial. I had been the kind of alcoholic -- as so many women are -- that I was so careful. You talk about a secret drinker."
Professionally, she said, she never took a drink before a performance, and even socially, if everyone had only a drink or two, so would she. She could do that, she said, because "I'd fortify myself before I went out and I'd compensate afterward, as well.
"With me, once it [alcohol] got hold of me, I could go just so many hours without my body craving and demanding."She had been in and out of a number of hospitals before she heard of Raleigh Hills. In 1979, she underwent detoxification at the Raleigh Hills Hospital in Oxnard, followed by its aversion therapy and counseling program.

Afterward, she said, she never craved alcohol again."It was just like God turned it off. That was it! And it was heaven," said Storm, who chronicled her struggle with alcoholism in her 1981 autobiography, "I Ain't Down Yet."

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