Josephine Owaissa Cottle (born April 5, 1922), better known as Gale Storm, is an American actress/singer. Her sister gave Josephine her middle name, an American Indian word meaning, "bluebird."
Born in Bloomington, Texas, Storm was raised by her family as Josephine Cottle. Her father, William Walter Cottle died after a year-long illness when she was just 13 months old, and her mother, Minnie Corina Cottle, struggled to raise five children alone. Josephine was the youngest with two brothers and two sisters.
Storm's mother Minnie took in sewing, then opened a millinery shop in nearby McDade, which failed, and then moved the family to Houston, Texas.
The young Josephine learned to be an accomplished dancer and became an excellent ice skater at Houston's Polar Palace. At the Albert Sydney Johnson Junior High and San Jacinto High School she performed in the drama club. When she was a 17-year-old senior in high school, two of her teachers (Miss Collier and Miss Oatman) urged her to enter "The Gateway to Hollywood Contest" held at the CBS Radio Studio in Hollywood, California where first prize was a one-year contract with a movie studio. She won and was immediately given the stage name "Gale Storm," while her performing partner, Lee Bonnell from South Bend, Indiana became "Terry Belmont." Josephine and Lee fell deeply in love and married two years later as soon as her mother would allow it. The Bonnells, as they were known privately, had four children (Phillip, Peter, Paul, and Susie). Josephine was widowed after 45 years of marriage. She now has eight grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Josephine was also widowed by her second husband of eight years, Paul Masterson. Today, Josephine Cottle Bonnell Masterson, better known to the world as Gale Storm, lives in Monarch, California near two of her sons. Storm today remains busy with attendance at charity benefits and at film festivals.
Career rise in films
After winning the contest in 1940, the new ingenue known as Gale Storm made several fims for the studio, RKO Radio Pictures, the first being Tom Brown's School Days. Storm also worked steadily in a number of low-budget films released during this period. In 1941 she sang in several Soundies, three-minute musicals produced for "movie jukeboxes."
Across town in Hollywood, she acted and sang in Monogram Pictures' popular Frankie Darro series, and played ingenue roles in other Monogram features, with the East Side Kids, Edgar Kennedy, and The Three Stooges. Monogram had always had to rely on established actors who had already made their reputations, but with Gale Storm the studio finally had a star of its own. She starred in the studio's most elaborate productions, both musical and dramatic. For example, Storm shared top billing in Monogram's Cosmo Jones in The Crime Smasher (1943), opposite Edgar Kennedy, Richard Cromwell, and Frank Graham in the role of Jones, a character derived from network Radio.
American audiences warmed to Storm during this period and her fan mail increased as a result. All told, she performed in more than three dozen motion pictures for Monogram. The early exposure from these film appearances paved the way for her future success in other media. Gale Storm went on to become an American icon of the 1950s, starring in two highly successful television series, and it was in this decade that her singing career took off.
Television icon of the '50s and beyond
In network television, the then still-"new" media, Storm's career skyrocketed from 1952 to 1955, with her starring role in My Little Margie. The show, which co-starred former silent film actor Charles Farrell, was originally a summer replacement for I Love Lucy, and it ran for 126 episodes.
Storm's popularity was capitalized upon with her follow-up namesake role in The Gale Storm Show (aka Oh! Susanna), featuring another silent movie staple, ZaSu Pitts. This program ran for 143 episodes between 1956 and 1960. Both programs later became local television station staples, shown countless times in reruns.
Storm appeared regularly on other television programs in the 1950s and 1960s as well. For example, she did a stint as one of the What's My Line? Mystery Guests on the popular Sunday Night CBS-TV program.
Recording artist and Billboard hitmaker
In Gallatin, Tennessee, a 10-year-old girl, Linda Wood, was watching Gale Storm on a Sunday night television comedy show hosted by Gordon MacRae in 1954, singing one of the popular songs of the day. Linda's father, hearing the singing, asked Linda who was singing and was told it was Gale Storm from My Little Margie.
Linda's father was Randy Wood, president of Dot Records, and he liked the sound so well that he called to sign Gale Storm before the end of the television show. Her first record, "I Hear You Knockin'" (a cover version of a rhythm and blues hit by Smiley Lewis, in turn based on the old Buddy Bolden standard "The Bucket's Got A Hole In It") sold over a million copies.
It was followed in 1957 by the haunting ballad of lost love, Dark Moon that went to No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100. In her career, Gale Storm had several top ten songs, headlined in Las Vegas, Nevada, and appeared in numerous stage plays.
In 1981, she published her autobiography, I Ain't Down Yet, which described, among other things, her battle with alcoholism. More recently, she was interviewed by author David C. Tucker for The Women Who Made Television Funny: Ten Stars of 1950s Sitcoms, published in 2007 by McFarland and Company.
Gale Storm has four stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for her contributions to Radio, Music, Television and Motion Pictures.
Mini Biography from http://www.IMDB.com
- written by Gary Brumburgh
Born with the drab, unlikely name of Josephine Cottle on April 5, 1921, this pleasant Texas-born auburn-haired beauty was seventeen months old when her father passed away. The youngest of five children, she became interested in acting after performing in high school dramatics in McDade, Texas (between Austin and Houston). By chance, Gale was chosen a winner of Jesse L. Lasky's "Gateway to Hollywood" radio talent search in 1939. This took her and her mother to Hollywood where Gale went on to win the national contest and given the more exciting stage moniker of Gale Storm. She was soon put under contract to RKO Pictures. Although she was dropped by the studio after only six months, she was established enough to find work elsewhere, including Monogram and Universal, appearing in a number of "B" musicals, mysteries and westerns. Although her wholesome, open-faced prettiness made her a natural for filming, the programmers she co-starred in were hardly beneficial. Making her inauspicious debut with Tom Brown's School Days (1940), her 40s movies with such dubious titles as Let's Go Collegiate (1941), Freckles Comes Home (1942), Revenge of the Zombies (1943), Sunbonnet Sue (1945), Swing Parade of 1946 (1946), and Curtain Call at Cactus Creek (1950) indicates the hardships of finding suitable, less innocuous material. Arguably, her best movie-making include the family Christmas tale It Happened on 5th Avenue (1947) which co-starred Don DeFore, the overlooked minor western comedy The Dude Goes West (1948) opposite Eddie Albert, and the film noir piece The Underworld Story (1950) with Dan Duryea. After years of toiling, Gale finally turned things around at age 30 by transplanting herself to the small screen. Her very first TV series vehicle "My Little Margie" (1952), which was only suppose to be a summer replacement series for "I Love Lucy," instead became one of the most watchable sitcoms in the early 50s while showing up in syndicated reruns for decades. Co-starring with the popular film star Charles Farrell as her amiable dad, Gale's warmth and ingratiating style suited TV to a tee and made her one of the most popular light comediennes of the time. She segued directly into her second hit series with "The Gale Storm Show" (1956), which was better known as "Oh! Susannah" after it went into syndication. Co-starring the hysterically woebegone Zasu Pitts as her invaluable companion, this show lasted a season longer than her first. In the midst of all this, the (gasp) thirty-something star launched her own Las Vegas nightclub and pop recording careers. Always looking much younger than she was, she produced a number of Billboard chart makers including "I Hear You Knocking" (her first hit), "Memories Are Made of This," "Ivory Tower" and her own cover of "Why Do Fools Fall in Love." Her most successful song of the decade was "Dark Moon," which peaked at #4. Gale's career took a sharp decline following the demise of her second series in 1960. Most of her focus was placed modestly on the summer stock or dinner theater circuit, doing a revolving door of comedies and musicals such as "Cactus Flower," "Forty Carats," "The Unsinkable Molly Brown" and "South Pacific." She finally appeared again on TV in a "Love Boat" segment in 1979 after nearly a two-decade absence. It was later revealed in Gale's 1981 candid autobiography "I Ain't Down Yet" and on the talk show circuit that the disappearance was triggered by a particularly nasty battle with alcohol. For years Gale was an outspoken and committed lecturer in helping to remove the stigma attached to such a disease, particularly as it applied to women. Fully recovered, she has been widowed twice -- by actor Lee Bonnell in 1986 and Paul Masterson in 1996. Incredibly accommodating over the years, Gale has appear on the nostalgia and film festival circuits to the delight of her many fans.
- Gale Storm appeared in YANK magazine on 10 March 1944
- Gale Storm Interview from Archive of American Television
- Official Gale Storm Web Site
- Gale Storm Fan Site
- John Beal's Gale Storm Web Site
- Gale Storm at the Internet Movie Database
- Gale Storm at All Music Guide
- Bio on "Films of the Golden Age"