Leigh Snowden Profile

Leigh Snowden
Leigh Snowden
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(Martha Leigh Estes)
23 June 29 is born in Memphis, Tennessee, of Scottish-Irish descent, to Robert Clyde and Catherine Estes, nee O'Neal
24 December 32 is still a child when her father dies
? her mother and she move to Covington, Tennessee
? develops a talent for singing and playing the piano
? attends Lambeth College in Jackson, Tennessee, for two years
? returns to Memphis, where she works as a fashion model in department stores and for photographers
? marries Jimmy Snowden, a taxi driver
? her first two children are born
52 spends the summer with a light opera company, playing at the Memphis Open Air Theatre
c. 52 debuts on television in the "Mr. District Attorney" series
Mid-53 is off to San Francisco to study voice and earns her living as a fashion model
? models for the House of Charms agency in San Francisco
54 after a short visit to Los Angeles, she persuades a girlfriend to move with her from San Francisco to Los Angeles / a job to reign as queen of a sportsmen's show lands her in Hollywood
goes to Los Angeles and says after one look at Hollywood: "This is the town for me."
? appears as an Oriental dancer in a big stage show and catches the eye of the producer
March 54 is pictured promoting the San Francisco National Sports and Boat Show held at the Civic Auditorium in Oakland, California
April 54 dressed as sailors, she and fellow model Joanne Vosti pose in front of the world's largest ship model, a replica of the S.S. Nieuw Amsterdam. The giant model was shipped from Holland to San Francisco, California, in a crate for exhibition at a national show.
? has parts on the Eddie Cantor, Bob Cummings and Mickey Rooney shows
28 November 54 is on "The Jack Benny Program." On the show she walks into the comedian's office, perches on his lap and kisses him. Producer Bob Aldrich spots her and casts her in his upcoming Kiss Me Deadly.
26 December 54 when Benny stages his Christmas program at San Diego Naval Training Station, she turns the show into shambles. All she does is swivel-hip across the stage, and 10,000 / 20,000 sailors cheer. "I swear I don't know what I did when I walked across that stage," she says. "I just walked like I always walked. Don't all girls walk like that?" Soon after, three major film studios offer screen tests.
January 55 signs a seven-year contract with Universal-International. Hollywood agent Antrim Short is said to haven fallen into disgrace at Paramount all because he piloted her to Universal-International when Paramount was expecting to give her a contract offer.
dates baseball player Johnny Berardino
says the last thing she wants is to be "another Marilyn Monroe." "I'd rather be called a good actress," she wails.
? attends Universal-International drama school and gets her first part at that studio in All That Heaven Allows
? is very friendly with young fellow Universal talents Cynthia Patrick and Gia Scala
March 55 gets more credit for coming right out and saying that she has two children. Columnist Louella Parsons writes: "Motherhood never hurt any good actress' career."
? meets accordionist Dick Contino on a blind date
April 55 goes to Rory Calhoun's party at Romanoff's with accordionist Dick Contino
is dated by Hugh O'Brian, who dates any newcomer like Lance Fuller does
Mid-April 55 Len Rogers, New York importer, is the man in her life
Late April 55 Dick Contino is her regular date
May 55 is seen with Hugh O'Brian drinking soda at Will Wright's
June 55 Universal-International assigns her to train with Swiss movement expert Walter Saxer. He has been Jennifer Jones' mentor in the art of moving gracefully ever since she made Song of Bernadette. The press wonders if they are trying to take the Monroe wobble out of Leigh's walk.
she and Contino date again, but there are no serious developments to be expected. Religious differences are the barrier.
July 55 with eligible escort Contino, she's a terrific consolation prize for any man-about-town
is seen hand-holding with Dick Contino at the opening of the stage play Anniversary Waltz. She got around to revealing her secret marriage, since dissolved, and her two small children, whom she brought from Memphis after latching on to that Universal contract.
Mid-August 55 attends the return of Sammy Davis, Jr., at Ciro's with escort Contino. Among the others ringside are Frank Sinatra with Anita Ekberg, George Burns and Gracie Allen, Nicky Hilton with Barbara Schmidt, the Jeff Chandlers, the Humphrey Bogarts, and Grant Withers with Estelita.
September 55 says it wasn't her idea to hide her children in Tennessee. Her number-one man is import-export executive Len Rogers from New York City.
5 September 55 as West Coasters sweltered in 100-degree-plus heat, movie starlets strolled through a shower of artificial snow that’s guaranteed not to melt—even on Hollywood’s sun-baked ground. But it doesn’t provide any relief from the heat as Dani Crayne, Mayra Hansen, Jane Howard, Gia Scala, Lili Kardell, Karen Kadler, and Leigh Snowden quickly learned; the gals are photographed walking through the “snow” in shorts.
Mid-September 55 is sued for $179,697 in Los Angeles by two men who claim they were injured on April 12 when her car collided with theirs. Murray A. Ross, 36, real estate broker, and his stepfather Dr. Samuel De Waltoff, 74, a physician, say they were seriously injured while sitting in their auto waiting for a traffic light.
November 55 sees Contino, Piper Laurie's ex, these days
Early December 55 she and Contino call it off again
she and Contino date again after telling friends her romance with Contino has gone cold
December 55 resumes with Dick, but they don't look for a marriage
is Universal-International's new glamour girl. She tries successfully to get her girlfriends from back home, Barbara Stuart and Ina Poindexter, into the movies.
is elected honorary police chief of Universal City, California. Her running mates are fellow Universal-International starlets Julie Adams, who is elected "America's most kissable mayor," and Dani Crayne, who becomes honorary fire chief.
April 56 Dick Contino apparently is over the Leigh Snowden apartache. Audrey Downey, a Las Vegas phone operator, is The One.
May 56 Contino must be over his torch for her. He and Joanne Rio, once Liberace's teehee, are "hotter than A-1 Sauce."
is on the welcoming committee for Umatilla chief Gilbert Connor when he arrives on the movie set for Pillars of the Sky. The other starlets are Jane Howard, Cynthia Patrick, Dani Crayne, Gia Scala, and Karen Kadler.
June 56 Contino orders an engagement ring for her
c. 18 June 56 says that she and Contino are engaged "but we cannot be married for six months to a year because of his commitments." Contino's family reportedly has objected to the match because Leigh has been divorced. Contino is Catholic, and his religion does not permit him to marry a divorcee.
Early July 56 shows up for work at Universal-International with a diamond as big as a Ritz brother
4 July 56 she and Contino are scheduled to ride in the Fourth of July parade in Redwood City, California, but at 5 a.m. Contino phones and leaves a message saying that he is too tired to get out of bed. The press headlines "Cabaret Blues Keep Contino From Parade."
5 July 56 Sheriff Earl B. Whitmore of Redwood City, California, claims that she and her fiancé Contino, failed to appear as scheduled in a Fourth of July parade. They had been billed as guests of the Peninsula Celebration Association and were to have ridden in a new lavender convertible with Contino playing his accordion.
July 56 she and Contino say they'll wed in January
Early August 56 she and her fiancé, Contino, make a tour of various San Francisco spots during their stay there. Contino performs at Bimbo's, and they dine at Fisherman's Wharf for some of the best seafood in the world. She and her mother visit Contino between movie roles.
18 September 56 marries Richard Joseph Contino in a civil ceremony at the Beverly Hills Hotel, despite threats from the studio that it will cost Leigh her contract. He's 28; she's 27. His uncle and aunt, Mr. and Mrs. John Contino, attend. They are accompanied by their daughter, Mrs. Louis Gentile, and Louis' daughter, Judy.
19 September 56 she and Contino leave for a combined honeymoon and business trip in Hawaii
c. 22 September 56 she and Contino arrive in Honolulu, Hawaii, where they honeymoon and Contino has a nightclub engagement. He's pictured carrying her from the plane.
November 56 she and Contino team up as a nightclub act. She'll sing while he tickles the ivories.
Mid-November 56 at her request, Universal-International is not picking up her option. "I wouldn't take anything for the training and experience I got at U-I and for the wonderful people I met there," she says, "but I wasn't receiving the kind of roles I wanted. I was hired because I did a sexy walk-on in a Jack Benny show. I never got a chance at a single sexy role."
December 56 settles the $180,000 damage suit brought against her after an April 12 traffic collision in Hollywood for an undisclosed amount. She says she was surprised when the case was filed as she had "merely tapped" the rear bumper of the car in which the two men were riding when the traffic halted for a traffic signal. The two men assured her they were unhurt, she says
March 57 tests for 20th Century-Fox's TV series "How to Marry a Millionaire"
July 57 expects her baby in December
12 December 57 her daughter Marie O. is delivered by Caesarian section in Los Angeles. Contino will head out soon on a nightclub tour and will be gone through February.
30 December 57 Contino files a bankruptcy petition listing $51,983 in debts. The press wonders why as he drives a medium-priced 1957 car and lives in a $140-a-month Glendale apartment with Leigh and their 3-week-old daughter. He claims that he served a term at McNeil Island Federal Prison in 1951 as a draft dodger and later went into the Army and saw a 16-month duty in Korea. The start of his financial downfall, he says, was an engagement in Reno. The income tax people discounted some expenses for his father, who always traveled with him. The government picked up the entire Reno check. Nightclub bookings became scarce. "Then I was talked into starting my own band. They told me Lawrence Welk had made a success, maybe I could. But they didn't tell me I would have to foot all the bills."
January 58 the press reports that she and Contino live comfortably but not lavishly by Hollywood standards. He drives a medium-priced 1957 car and lives in a $140-a-month Glendale apartment.
March 58 she and his parents, Peter and Mary Contino of Glendale, accompany Contino to court where he has to appear on a charge that he failed to keep financial records in an attempt to defraud his creditors in a bankruptcy action. The Bankruptcy Referee grants Contino the continuance on the charges over the objections of trustee Irving Bass who charged Contino failed to keep transferred funds and failed to explain the loss of assets "knowingly and fraudulently" after filing bankruptcy on December 30, 1957.
February 59 will appear with Contino on stage in Las Vegas, where she and her husband have rented a home
21 March 59 her husband is ordered to appear in bankruptcy court April 20 on a charge that he failed to keep financial records in an attempt to defraud his creditors in a bankruptcy action. He appears in court with Leigh and his parents, Peter and Mary Contino, of Glendale, California.
27 March 59 is hospitalized after the loss of her baby in Burbank, California. She is taken to St. Joseph's Hospital, but doctors are unable to save the baby that was expected in October.
April 59 she, Contino, and their 16-month-old daughter Mary are pictured visiting his native Fresno, California, where he will plug Daddy-O, "a movie in which he has a sort of beatnik part." The Continos stay at the home of a cousin, Larry Marinaro, at 2303 Fountain Way.
February 60 performs with her husband plus the Standouts at Harrah's in Reno, Nevada
5 December 60 her daughter Deidre L. is born in Los Angeles. She will become a renown musician.
7 March 63 her son Peter R. is born in Los Angeles
September 64 performs with her husband in nightclub dates around the country. She and Contino have three children. "Without my wife I would have gone to the bughouse a long time ago," he claims. He produces, composes and arranges for his shows and records.
February 67 sings at a gala of the Tarzana, California, Chamber of Commerce
70 the Continos reside in Fresno, California
March 71 is in a local production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof at the Fresno Community Theater
May 71 as Leigh Snowden Contino, she is named best actress for her part in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof by the Fresno Community Theater
March 74 the Continos reside in Las Vegas, Nevada
16 May 82 as Martha Leigh Contino, she dies at age 52 from a malignant melanoma in North Hollywood, California. Surviving are her husband, two children from a previous marriage, and three more by Contino. He will remarry.
? is cremated; her ashes are scattered at sea
00 her second daughter with Contino, Deidre, resides in Southern California, where she performs with her Top 40 blues band, Black Pearl, and travels the country doing solo performances at concerts and Italian festivals
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Recommended Books:
Fifties Blondes by Richard Koper
The Astounding B Monster