In 1941, when Dolores Moran was 15, she worked as a waitress at a drive-in restaurant in San Jose, California. One day she served a local farmer some coffee and hamburger. The next year Moran left San Jose and moved to Hollywood where she achieved brief fame as an actress.
By the 1960s her acting career had ended. But then, in 1968, Moran learned that the farmer she had served at the drive-in 27 years ago had died, leaving her his apricot orchard valued at around $300,000 (or $2.5 million in today's money).
Moran had no memory of serving the farmer, whose name was Anthony Ponce. Nor had the two ever communicated since then. She said, "for the life of me I can't remember the man." But evidently she had made a big impression on him.
Monroe News Star - Dec 18, 1968
Ponce's relatives contested the will, arguing that he was not of sound mind when he made it. I haven't been able to find out how the case was settled, but I'm guessing Moran got to keep the orchard since it's usually fairly difficult to invalidate a will.
If she did get to keep it, then that would have to count as one of the biggest gratuities of all time. Perhaps the biggest? Especially for an order of coffee and hamburger.
Feb 1938: Self-proclaimed obscure actor Emil Sitka picketed on Hollywood Boulevard, declaring that Hollywood was unfair to him.
I don't think that this stunt brought him much recognition, but he did, eventually, gain success in Hollywood when, in 1947, he began appearing in Three Stooges' films. He ended up being known as the "fourth stooge". From wikipedia:
Sitka served the role of a literal "stooge," or straight man, to the Three Stooges throughout nearly 40 of their short films, most of which were filmed during Shemp's run as the third stooge. In addition to one single appearance during Curly's run with the trio, and a limited number of appearances during Besser's, Sitka returned as a near-regular character when the trio returned to film and television with DeRita. His frequent appearances with the trio, and his role as stooge to the stooges, have earned him the informal title of being the "fourth stooge".
She was the daughter of Georgia farmer Leon Cheek. After winning a beauty contest in 1921, in which she was declared America's prettiest girl, she became a successful actress in New York City. In 1922, she was involved in a scandalous divorce case (her husband was simultaneously married to another woman). By 1925, she had remarried and took the name of her new husband, Sanders. The last record I can find of her is from 1927, when she was featured in an ad for Colgate toothpaste.
Dora Bryan was certainly somewhat homely for a famous actress, with a female assistant prettier than herself. And surely anyone who names their parakeet "Cecil Gibson" must've been a few caravans shy of a trailer park.
I came across a story in a 1938 newspaper about how Adriana Caselotti got the job of being the voice of Snow White in Disney's 1937 movie:
Three years ago when Adriana Caselotti, above, was 18, she was a naughty little girl who listened in on the phone calls of her father, Guido Caselotti, Hollywood voice teacher. When the Walt Disney studio called one day asking him to find the right voice for Snow White, she piped "Me, me, me, how about me?" into the extension on which she had been eavesdropping. The studio liked her cheerful chirping, and she became the "voice" of the fairy story heroine. Now she hopes to become a movie actress.
Unfortunately for Caselotti, her dream of becoming a movie actress didn't turn out as she hoped. In fact, providing the voice for Snow White turned out to be the worst career move she could have possibly made as an aspiring actress — because Walt Disney, wanting to preserve the "illusion of Snow White," decided he couldn't have her voice be heard in any other context. So he prevented Caselotti from ever finding work as an actress again, except for minor appearances in The Wizard of Oz and It's a Wonderful Life.
As a consolation prize for having destroyed her career, the Disney company named her a "Disney Legend" in 1994.
In 1935, after a brief stint as a chorus girl at MGM, Walt Disney hired Caselotti as the voice of his heroine Snow White. She was paid a total of $970 for working on the film (worth approximately $16,160 as of 2011). She was under contract with Disney, and Disney prevented her from appearing in further film and other media, even for Disney, after Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Jack Benny specifically mentioned that he had asked Disney for permission to use her on his radio show and was told, "I'm sorry, but that voice can't be used anywhere. I don't want to spoil the illusion of Snow White." The only other work Caselotti did following her premiere was an uncredited role in MGM's The Wizard of Oz (1939); she provided the voice of Juliet during the Tin Man's song, "If I Only Had a Heart", speaking the line, "Wherefore art thou Romeo?" In 1946, she had an uncredited role in Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life, singing in Martini's bar as James Stewart was praying.
Paul Di Filippo
Paul has been paid to put weird ideas into fictional form for over thirty years, in his career as a noted science fiction writer. He has recently begun blogging on many curious topics with three fellow writers at The Inferior 4+1.