Virginia Reid Sampson
1916 - 1955
One of our Christmas traditions is viewing Reginald Owen as Scrooge in A CHRISTMAS CAROL (MGM, 1938) on Turner Classic Movies. In that film, a gal named "Bess" is engaged to Scrooge's nephew, and Bess is played by Lynne Carver, a very pretty lady who can even deliver dialog reasonably well. As I was watching, I recalled that Carver did a few 1940s Monogram westerns with Johnny Mack Brown. I wondered "whatever happened to Lynne Carver?"
According to the genealogy website listed at the bottom of this page, Carver was born Virginia Reid Sampson on September 13, 1916 in Douglas, Arizona, and her parents were Reid Johnson Sampson and Maude Fleenor Sampson. There's lots of confusion regarding her birth date and location. The 1936-1937 Motion Picture Almanac lists Virginia Reid as born in Lexington, Kentucky on September 13, 1916. Motion Picture Almanacs from the mid 1940s show Lynne Carver's birthplace as Birmingham, Alabama.
Hoping to get more info on Carver, I jotted off an e-mail to the Douglas, Arizona Library. Cindy Hayostek, a professional writer and historical researcher, quickly responded. Cindy writes:
"Virginia Reid Sampson was born in Douglas, Arizona on September 13, 1916. Her father, Reid Johnson Sampson, was an engineer at the Copper Queen smelter. The Copper Queen was the larger of the two copper smelters in town at the time. Her mother is listed on Virginia's birth certificate as Maud Fleenor, a housewife. Virginia was the second of Maud's children. In the 1917 Douglas City directory, there were two other Sampsons in Douglas. I imagine they are relatives of some sort. In the 1918 Douglas City directory, none of the Sampsons are listed. Virginia may have been born here, but she didn't live here long."
(Note: in a follow-up e-mail to Cindy, I asked her to double-check the spelling on the first name of Carver's Mom - it is Maud with no "e" at the end.)
Her Hollywood career began around 1934 and she can be seen in films at RKO and as one of many starlets doing musicals as a Goldwyn Girl. In her early film work, she called herself Virginia Reid. By the late 1930s at MGM, she was billed as Lynne Carver and appeared in the Dr. Kildare series, A CHRISTMAS CAROL (1938), THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN (1939) wih Mickey Rooney, more.
She did a half dozen B westerns in the 1940s. There was a pair with Roy Rogers: SUNSET ON THE DESERT (Republic, 1942) and MAN FROM CHEYENNE (Republic, 1942). That was followed by a quartet with Johnny Mack Brown: LAW OF THE VALLEY (Monogram, 1944), FLAME OF THE WEST (Monogram, 1945), DRIFTING ALONG (Monogram, 1946) and CROSSED TRAILS (Monogram, 1948). In three of these half dozen, Carver wasn't the heroine/leading lady. In MAN FROM CHEYENNE, Lynne is a baddie, working in cahoots with William Haade and a gang of rustlers. She's a saloon gal in CROSSED TRAILS. And she's background in FLAME OF THE WEST which has Joan Woodbury as the female lead. Supposedly, Carver has an unbilled/uncredited role in John Wayne's IN OLD CALIFORNIA (Republic, 1942), but I've been unable to spot her in that film.
After exiting Hollywood, Lynne spent time doing plays and there's a few traces in tradepapers - a couple examples:
There were several marriages:
While at RKO as "Virginia Reed", she married dentist Dr. Ralph C. McClung in January, 1935 and they divorced in November, 1936.
Lynne married Nicholas Nayfack in Yuma, Arizona on July 18, 1937 and they divorced in May, 1942. Nayfack was an MGM executive and the nephew of Hollywood studio bosses Joseph M. Schenck and Nicholas M. Schenck. He and Lynne met while she was at MGM.
August 31, 1948 marriage to actor John Burt. In an October, 1948 UP syndicated news report, Lynne claimed she was drinking the night they married, had no recollection of the marriage, and was granted an annulment in a Hollywood court.
Marriage number four was to New York theatrical director William J. Mullaney and they were together at Lynne's passing on August 12, 1955 from cancer.
She exited films and Hollywood circa late 1940s due to health problems. Excerpts from 1955 newspapers on her August 12, 1955 death: "NEW YORK --- Lynne Carver, 38-year-old actress, died in Memorial Hospital here Friday after a year-long battle against cancer." ; "She was married to William J. Mullaney, New York theatrical director." and "Lynne Carver ... wife of William J. Mullaney of 97 Perry Street, New York City. Funeral from Universal Chapel, 52nd Street and Lexington Avenue."
(Courtesy of Les Adams)
Above from L-to-R are Lynne Carver, Johnny Mack Brown and Kathy Frye in a scene from CROSSED TRAILS (Monogram, 1948). This was Carver's last movie role.
(Courtesy of Les Adams)
Above from L-to-R are Douglas Fowley, Lynne Carver, stuntman Ted Mapes (with hat), Steve Clark, Terry Frost (with hat), Johnny Mack Brown, Lynton Brent (partial face), a very old Jack Rockwell (wearing the suit), Tom Quinn, and Raymond Hatton in a scene from JMB's DRIFTING ALONG (Monogram, 1946).
(Courtesy of Les Adams)
Above is the title lobby card to MAN FROM CHEYENNE (Republic, 1942). Behind Roy Rogers from L-to-R are Karl Farr (guitar), Lloyd Perryman (bass fiddle), Hugh Farr (fiddle), Tim Spencer (guitar), George 'Gabby' Hayes and Bob Nolan. In the photo inset on the right are Lynne Carver, Roy, Gale Storm, and James Seay.
It's always interesting to click through newspaper headlines and clippings at the Google newspaper archives - here's a couple articles on Lynne doing westerns at Republic Pictures and a quickie marriage and annulment in 1948 to actor John Burt:
Although some of the data is incomplete or inaccurate, the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) has information on:
Lynne Carver: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0142568/
MGM Executive/Producer Nicholas Nayfack (1909-1958): https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0623255/
The Family Search website (free) and Ancestry.com (subscription) have more information on Virginia Sampson / Lynne Carver:
Find A Grave website has a photo of the marker for Lynne Carver Mullaney (1916 - 1955) at Cemetery of the Gate of Heaven, Hawthorne, Westchester County, New York: http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=7994449
There's a genealogy website with a page on Lynne Carver, and it shows her real name as Virginia Reid Sampson and born September 13, 1916 in Douglas, Arizona: https://freepages.rootsweb.com/~jsmith/genealogy/ps02/ps02_194.htm
As mentioned, Carver did time as a member of the Goldwyn Girls. There's a clip from the Eddie Cantor KID MILLIONS (Samuel Goldwyn/UA, 1934) on YouTube which features the amazing talents of a young Harold Nicholas (of the Nicholas Brothers dance team). A closeup of a blonde Lynne Carver can be seen at around 1 minute, 30 seconds into this clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r-LkngVMeOI. And while watching, see if you can spot a young Lucille Ball.