Actress Gale Storm Dies
My Little Margie Star Was 87
Actress Gale Storm, who became one of the biggest stars in the early days of television through her work on the comedy series My Little Margie and The Gale Storm Show, has died at age 87.
Storm, who had been in failing health in recent years, died Saturday, June 27, at a convalescent hospital in Danville, California.
She came to television in 1952, with My Little Margie, after a successful career in movies and radio. After The Gale Storm Show ended in 1960, she continued to perform as a singer and as an occasional guest performer on television.
Born Josephine Owaissa Cottle on April 5, 1922, in Bloomington, Texas, Storm was only 13 months old when her father died. Her mother supported five children by taking in sewing.
In 1940, as a high school student, she entered a talent contest for a radio show called Gateway to Hollywood. She made the finals, which were held in Los Angeles, where she charmed the radio audience and was awarded a movie contract.
The contest also selected a male winner-a man named Lee Bonnell, who later became her husband.
Renamed Gale Storm, she made low-budget movies for RKO, Monogram and Universal. He costars include Jackie Cooper, Freddie Bartholomew, Eddie Albert, Audie Murphy, George Montgomery and cowboy star Roy Rogers.
As her film options dwindled, she segued into television with the CBS comedy My Little Margie, which debuted in 1952 as a summer replacement for I Love Lucy. When it became popular with audiences, the show moved to its own slot on NBC that fall.
My Little Margie starred veteran actor Charles Farrell as a business executive and eligible widower, whose meddlesome daughter Margie, played by Storm, sought to protect her father from unscrupulous would-be wives.
The show ended in 1955 after 126 episodes. A year later, she returned in The Gale Storm Show, which ran until 1960. This time she played Susanna Pomeroy, a troublemaking social director on a luxury liner.
She also launched a successful career as a singer, performing in nightclubs and releasing records. Several of her songs made the Billboard charts, including "I Hear You Knocking," "Memories Are Made of This," "Ivory Tower," "Dark Moon" and a cover of "Why Do Fools Fall in Love."
In the ensuing years, she made occasional TV appearances, including guest roles in such series as Burke's Law, The Love Boat and Murder, She Wrote.
More of her time was devoted to musicals, including Gian Carlo Menotti's The Old Maid and the Thief at the Los Angeles Conservatory of Music. Other stage credits included Unsinkable Molly Brown (as the title character), South Pacific and Finian's Rainbow.
In her 1980 autobiography, I Ain't Down Yet, Storm shared that she had fought a long battle with alcoholism. At that time, she appeared as a commercial spokesperson for Raleigh Hills Hospital, the now-defunct alcohol treatment chain where she had sought treatment for her drinking.
She credited Lee Bonnell, her husband of 45 years, with helping her survive that difficult experience.
Bonnell died in 1986, and a year later she married former television executive Paul Masterson. He died in 1996.
Storm is survived by her four children with Bonnell, eight grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
On February 19, 1999, Gale Storm was interviewed by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation's Archive of American Television. The complete three-and-a-half-hour interview is available online here.