Eve Golden: The Amazing Life of Allan Gould

Ruth Tester and Allan Gould in 'Makers of Melody'
Ruth Tester and Allan Gould perform Manhattan in the 1929 Paramount short Makers of Melody.

Longtime readers may recall that way back in 2013, Larry and I pondered the career of Allan Gould, whom I had seen in a 1929 Rodgers and Hart short, Makers of Melody: You can see him here singing Manhattan with Ruth Tester, and The Girl Friend with Inez Courtney (whom we all recall from her many 1930s films, usually playing the star’s wisecracking pal).

Larry and I both wondered why no one had ever heard of this wonderful performer, and whatever happened to him? Lo, all these years later, comes the answer, and it is a happy one! Allan Gould’s offspring (who wishes to remain anonymous) got in touch with Larry, and fills us in on our Mystery Man.Allan Gould (Aladar Nathanial Gold) at 13
Allan Gould at age 13, courtesy of the Gould family.

“Aladar Nathaniel Gold was born in Hell’s Kitchen, in NYC, in 1905. He was a ‘tough’ and a ‘bad Jew’ who skipped out on his Bar Mitzvah to hang with the boys and flip coins or roll hoops while trying to avoid stepping in horse flop, and practice his true love, dancing and singing. On one vaudeville show, a man with higher billing was also named Gold, and so my dad added the ‘u.’ He kinda liked that it seemed slightly less Jewish and decided to keep it. He parents of course were furious! He absolutely hated his middle name and dropped it like a hot gefilte fish as soon as he was old enough!”

As for his career, Gould “worked begrudgingly in the family’s dress shop, worked in vaudeville for a time.” He did appear in one feature film, but “the lady he costarred with had the only copy of the celluloid, and wouldn’t release it! I saw it once when I was a youngster.”

Why did Gould’s career peter out, when he was so talented and attractive? “He quit because he preferred vaudeville, and it was on its way out. My dad said that he hated the lights and the makeup, and he didn’t like watching himself on film.”

Allan Gould and Skye Patrick

Gould and his second wife, Skye Patrick, courtesy of the Gould family.

Gould married twice, the second time to model Skye Patrick. He led a very full life, probably fuller than if he’d stayed in The Show Business: “He was an avid photographer, and made a living as a freelance photographer for Time, Life, TV Guide, Playboy, Look, and other major magazines. He’d traveled around the world as a news photographer and met a lot of interesting people.” His photographic subjects included  Haile Selassie, Carl Sandburg, Richard Nixon, John F. Kennedy, Cassius Clay, Spiro Agnew—and Henry Kissinger and Paul Robeson, both of whom he befriended. Gould worked as a photographic consultant on the Gemini and Apollo Space Programs for NASA, and wrote a column for the Miami News.

“He opened a wholesale distribution company in the ’70s called Now Things, Inc., in Coral Gables Florida, where he sold black lights, posters, incense, roach clips, bongs, papers, etc., to all the little head shops that were popping up like crazy during the Vietnam war. My dad was very involved in the NAACP; he was also a chef—he did small gatherings and charged for it.”

dad camera

Gould was a freelance photographer for major magazines.

I was also directed to Kaj Oldenburg, who worked for and befriended Gould in the 1970s, and who was happy to fill in some more details. Oldenburg notes that—although forgotten today—Allan Gould was a successful vaudeville act in the 1920s, first as a double, then a single, working as a light song-and-dance man. He was a millionaire “on paper” (till 1929 came along), lived in the old Waldorf-Astoria (the site of the current Empire State Building), and owned one of two Mercedes-Benzes in New York (the other was Al Jolson’s). He was pals with the Marx Brothers—especially Harpo, as was the case with most people.

Gould was also a photographic consultant to NASA.

When talkies hit, Gould—perhaps encouraged by Makers of Melody, which was doubtless shot in New York—drove his Benz cross-country (quite an undertaking in the pre-Interstate days) to try his luck in the movies. He roomed with another young Broadway transplant, Archie Leach—which would place his arrival around 1931, when Archie moved to Hollywood and was renamed Cary Grant.

“They became friends, they made bathtub gin and gave parties,” says Oldenburg. “Cary Grant had so many women chasing him, Allan was in awe. Cary’s career took off and Allan’s did not, so he sold his Mercedes and took the train back to New York. He was pretty broke by then. Because of his roommate, he saw things could really go great for somebody, and he sort of soured on show business.” He has no films credits from his Hollywood days, and Oldenburg guesses that he was only able to get unbilled extra and chorus jobs, while roommate Cary’s career skyrocketed.

The stock-market crash wiped Gould out, and he restarted from nothing. “He was much more interested in his photography—he was more interested in the people he met, rather than what he did,” says Oldenburg. “He did all kinds of photography—journalism, advertising—he photographed an ad for Heinz that got him noticed and won an award” (it was a wall of Heinz boxes, with one in the center turned upside-down—kind of pre-Warhol). In later life Gould also invested in the still-active Tweetsie Railroad, a family theme park in North Carolina.

dad proofs

Gould, still the showman, with some of his photographs.

Gould died in Miami in 1982, his acting career long behind him and possibly forgotten as an unimportant part of his early life. But nearly 100 years later—thanks, YouTube!—we can still enjoy his youthful talents as he sings Manhattan and The Girl Friend (dig those Oxford bags!). I still maintain that he could have had the career of an Arthur Lake or Hal Le Roy, or even—with a lot of luck and maybe a push from his roommate—Dick Powell. But I am delighted for his sake that he got out while the getting was good, and went on to have “a very full” (and, I hope, happy) life.

About lmharnisch

I am retired from the Los Angeles Times
This entry was posted in Eve Golden, Film, Hollywood, Music, Photography and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Eve Golden: The Amazing Life of Allan Gould

  1. mark says:

    I love that you found his happy ending.


  2. C. Haure says:

    Some people just never stop working on interesting things. I could swear Now Things, Inc rings a bell somewhere in the Loompanics section of my mind. Amazing the connection from now till them


  3. Dawn C says:

    I like finding out about the lives of entertainers who may have seemed to disappear from the business and weren’t heard from again. Thanks for following your curiosity; it’s nice to know Gould had such a long and interesting life!


  4. bj says:

    What a wonderful story of a has-been who never was and all the better for it. Thank you.


  5. Kendahl says:

    I love this. Wondering if he’d have tried longer in Hollywood if he wasn’t roommates with Grant. I mean, that could have been the thing that set him on a better path!


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