Starstruck by Ella Raines

Published 9:34 pm Tuesday, March 8, 2016

By Frank Roberts

I have here, in my hot little hands, several tickets to the North Bend Theater, a gorgeous art deco movie house in that Washington state town. For $10 I can see some old flicks.

There’s “The Suspect,” on June 24, “Hail the Conquering Hero,” on June 23 in the afternoon, and “Phantom Lady,” in the evening.

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What those movies have in common is one of their stars — the only movie star on whom I had a serious, serious crush. I even took a chance and wrote to her — the only time I penned a fan letter.

I shared my feelings with no one. I felt a tad foolish, but I sent it off, never expecting a reply.

One of the things I wrote was an apology of sorts. I noted that what I had to say might not have been written properly. Anyway, not long after I sent it I got a reply with a full-sized picture of my heroine, Ella Raines.

She sported a brunette version of the old Veronica Lake hairdo. I have carried that picture around all these years, and it currently graces a shelf about my computer.

I treasure the words she wrote to this smitten 15-year-old: “Dear Frank. Thanks for your nice letter AND I don’t think you are nutty, because yours was intelligent — Ye gads, you should see some. Best regards — Ella Raines.”

Be still, my beating heart. A couple years back, I contacted Kris and Dick, who live in Snoqualmie Valley and are doing their best to keep their heroine’s name alive.

Ella was born in Snoqualmie Falls in 1920. Her real name was Ella Wallace Raubes. Her hometown was a lumber town and her dad, Ernest, was a lumberman, an influential foreman. The star’s bio notes, “She grew up passionate about animals and the outdoors.”

As a youngster, her interests were varied. She rode horseback, swam, hiked, skied, and was adept at fly fishing.

After graduating from Snoqualmie High, she went to the University of Washington. She started as a music major, but she wanted to be an actress, an aspiration not shared by her mother, Bird. Finally, Bird let her out of the “nest” and approved of Ella’s desire to be an actress.

She did a play or two at the university. One of her plays was seen by noted director, Howard Hawks, and she was invited to go to Hollywood for a screen test. She was signed by a production company owned by Charles Boyer.

Her youngest daughter, Susan Olds, wrote, “Her natural beauty and striking green eyes and dark hair were perfect for the black-and-white films of the 1940s.”

She debuted in “Corvette K-225” with Randolph Scott. Altogether, she appeared in 20 movies, including “Cry Havoc,” “Tall In the Saddle,” “Hail the Conquering Hero,” “The Strange Affair Of Uncle Harry,” “Brute Force,” and “The Web.”

In the 1950s she starred in a long-forgotten TV series, “Janet Dean, Registered Nurse.” Other prestigious television shows included “Robert Montgomery Presents,” “Douglas Fairbanks Jr. Presents,” “Lights Out,” “Pulitzer Prize Playhouse,” “The Christophers,” and “Matt Houston.”

Romance entered the non-movie picture in the form of Robin Olds, a World War II double-ace pilot. After they married, he was stationed in England. She went to New York. Divorce was inevitable.

Back to Hollywood, and guest appearances on television.

Ella appeared on the cover of Life Magazine twice, and she has two stars on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame for her contributions to motion pictures, and television.

My heroine died in 1988 of throat cancer. She was 67.

I would love to have gone to the Ella Raines Film Festival, but the tickets were for 2007.

During a 60-year career spanning newspapers, radio and television, Frank Roberts has been there and done that. Today, he’s doing it in retirement from North Carolina, but he continues to keep an eye set on Suffolk and an ear cocked on country music. Email him at