“Not Quite a Star”

I have been doing genealogical research on my paternal grandmother. I found a set of papers that I must have inherited many years ago, although I don’t remember seeing them before. Among them was this image of Cary Grant in Once Upon a Honeymoon, a 1942 film. My grandmother, going under the stage name of Claudine LeDuc is the desk clerk. The only other image of her from that era is as an extra in the 1943 movie Song of Bernadette.

Although she was never honest about her age, I have learned that she was born in 1881 in Paris. It was actually quite a relief to learn that she was 88, not 73, when she died, since I am 73. That means she went to California to “make it big in the pictures” when she was 60. It was not an ideal time to start her career. Nonetheless she always was proud of herself as an actress and I had no idea that she had only these two small roles.

She is also responsible for the 29% of my DNA that is Ashkenanzi Jewish. I didn’t learn that from her, however. She was anti-Semitic, probably a good defense during the time Hitler’s reach was unpredictable and his ability to round up Jewish people was predictable.

I doubt she would be pleased at my research and what it has uncovered. She wanted to carefully curate her persona and could have preserved it forever if not for the internet. But I am glad to know the truth, some of it sordid, some of it pleasurable(who wouldn’t want to stand next to Cary Grant?) I am only here because of her. Her DNA runs through my veins. And one of my descendants is an actress.

43 thoughts on ““Not Quite a Star”

    1. My wife has Jewish ancestry. Some branches of the family have remained so. Others were quite successful in covering it up, so much so it brought reactions ranging from surprise to denial when it was re-discovered.

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        1. It makes sense to me now. You and your brother do not look exactly alike, so it stands to reason that you have a slightly different mix from the inherited DNA. With that reasoning, identical twins should have the same percentages.

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  1. Wow, it’s awesome that your grandmother went to California to be an actress when she was 60. I really admire people who don’t let their age stop them from doing new things.

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  2. I really enjoyed this post, Elizabeth. My grandmother was the same age (well, five years younger) and that was a generation of people who crafted their image. My mother was the same way. It’s a shame that as a result, many stories have been lost, or I should say never told. You must be so glad you did some detective work. How cool to have a photo of your grandmother with Cary Grant!

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  3. Snap! I’m 32% Ashkenazy according to my DNA results. I don’t know anything about my parents, as I was adopted in the days when you didn’t find out… but I had my DNA tested by Ancestry.

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      1. A couple of potential second cousins have been in touch, but I’m afraid I can’t tell them much about my parents. He was a gentleman farmer (married, not namedon birth certificate) she was his secretary and had a twin sister. And this is all heresay told to my adoptive mother back then.

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  4. That is a great photograph to have, Elizabeth. How exciting to have an actress in the family who stood next to Carey Grant. My mother met Roger Moore once and he invited her out for dinner. She didn’t go though.

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  5. This post was particularly interesting to me because I had an older half-sister (stage name Ruth Tobey) who appeared in several 1940s films (incl. JANIE and JANIE GETS MARRIED). Unfortunately I never met her, as we lived 2,000 miles apart and my father wasn’t interested in us meeting. After I grew up. she died before I ever got to California. I’ve often wondered what she was like.

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    1. I had to google her just now. What a lot of information and a nice photo of her. Too bad that your dad didn’t want you to meet. Had he abandoned her mother?(I am all about family scandal at the moment!)

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