Note: This is an encore post from 2005 and originally appeared on the 1947project..
Robert and Joseph were close—even in death. They shared a home filled with antiques, bric-a-brac and paintings at 4329 Agnes Ave. in North Hollywood, as well as their bank accounts, and were the beneficiaries of each other’s wills.
But after they died within a few hours of one another, leaving a combined estate of $25,000 ($236,604.65 USD 2005), their families said they were too close. A lawsuit brought by Robert’s aunt and uncle charged that Joseph and Robert had “a strange attachment.”
Robert M. Kalloch, who died at the age of 50, was one of Hollywood’s leading dress designers in the 1930s and ’40s, beginning at Columbia, where he was the studio’s first major designer, working on such pictures as “It Happened One Night,” “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” and “His Girl Friday,” and then MGM. Born in New York, he attended the School of Fine and Applied Arts and spent several years in Europe designing for Lucille Ltd. before coming to Los Angeles.
Kalloch occasionally wrote about fashion for The Times and was frequently interviewed. In a 1940 Times article, he said: “Stop dressing to please yourself and dress to please men.” He exploded with wrath at the suggestion women already dress to please their boyfriends. “They certainly don’t, otherwise they would not wear open-toed shoes, painted nails, heavy eye shadows, tricked-up hair, incredible hats and all the other things most men hate,” he snapped.
Very little is known about Kalloch’s inseparable companion, Joseph H. De Marais, except that he was 10 years younger, had a brother in Massachusetts and another in Rhode Island.
Since Kalloch died at 9:30 a.m., and De Marais died at 1:30 p.m. after contacting authorities, De Marais’ survivors stood to inherit everything, prompting the suit by Kalloch’s family.
Unfortunately, The Times never followed up on this story, so there’s no further information. It seems fairly apparent that this was a gay couple and certainly newspapers were extremely squeamish about the subject of homosexuality in the 1940s. The contents of the house were auctioned off in December 1947 and included sterling silver, Rogers 1847 plate, miniatures, books and miscellaneous items.
Many of Kalloch’s drawings are in UCLA Special Collections in the materials of Peggy Hamilton Adams, described in the library’s website as “a colorful figure whose voluminous papers document her career as the self-proclaimed best dressed girl in Hollywood.”
Quote of the day: “To me, the American woman will be more interesting than ever because with her willingness to put her shoulder to the wheel she will at the same time not forget to be her ‘loveliest to look at’ self.”
Robert Kalloch, on military influences in women’s fashions during World War II.