Both had been photographic subjects of Mabel Sykes, a renowned Chicago portrait photographer in the 1920s. Sykes’ clients varied considerably. She photographed both students at Chicago’s Loyola Academy and Rudolph Valentino, the world renowned silent film star who bragged that Sykes was his favorite photographer.
A little update here on Dad’s connections to Hollywood:
After seeing that post on GeneaJourneys, big brother Gerry Desmond (yep, our Dad’s namesake) called to offer me a little more information about a couple of those photos which I had totally forgotten about.
It seems there’s another, even closer, connection between my Dad and Hollywood in these images, and that connection is standing right behind him in the photo below:
Take a close look at the fifth young man in the back row in the dark zippered jacket and dark tie. That classmate, who’s standing directly behind my dad, is none other than Robert Ryan, who would go on to become one of the most legendary actors of his era on America’s silver screen.
According to Wikipedia, Ryan was born in Chicago in 1909, (same place and year as my dad). After graduating from Loyola Academy, Ryan went on to study at Dartmouth College (Dad went on to Notre Dame) where the future screen star held the school’s heavyweight boxing title for all four years. (That may help explain those macho movie roles.)
After graduation from Dartmouth, Ryan found employment as a stoker on a ship, a WPA worker, and a ranch hand in Montana–all before serving a stint in the U.S. Marines as a drill instructor, and eventually breaking into show business on the silver screen.
Ryan’s stage productions included roles in Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night and The Front Page, a comedy-drama about Chicago’s newspaper business–quite a departure from Ryan’s usual role as the leading man in war movies, westerns and violent thrillers.
Off screen, says Wikipedia, Ryan was a pacifist and liberal democrat embracing political causes which often ran counter to his usual onscreen persona. He was vocal about this irony and, according to L.A. Times reporter Philip K. Scheuer, at one press event Ryan spoke about the “problems of an actor like me, playing the kinds of characters that, in real life” he found “totally despicable.”
Ryan’s one and only wife was Jessica Cadwalader, a Quaker and fellow pacifist, whom he was married to for 33 years. They had two sons and a daughter.
According to Wikipedia, the co-op they lived in at 72nd and Central Park West in New York City, was eventually sublet to some recognizable names of a more recent era: John Lennon and Yoko Ono.
Ryan died from lung cancer in 1972 at the age of 63.
Robert Ryan can also be found in my dad’s 1927 senior class picture from Loyola Academy as the (appropriately) tall, dark and handsome man in the middle of the back row. Wearing a light colored suit, he stands just behind and to the left of those boys in the “LA” letter sweaters, and to the right of the young man in the checkered jacket.
I imagine my dad had no idea who he was sitting next to in math, English, and religion class, at Loyola Academy back in the mid 1920s.
He sure remembered him years later, though, when he bragged to us kids about going to high school with “Bob” Ryan who went on to become an American movie icon.
Thanks, Gerry, for reminding me about this bit of family history trivia.
Copyright © 2013 Patricia Desmond Biallas
Author’s note: be sure to see the preceding post entitled “Rudolph Valentino and Dad” dated 8/13/2013 for a little backstory on the post above!
Movie photos courtesy of IMDB movie database. Loyola Academy class photos from Desmond family photo album