Hollywood Comes Calling Again!

Robert Ryan

Robert Ryan, Class of 1927, Loyola Academy, Chicago, Illinois

A few days ago I put up a post about a Hollywood connection between my father Gerald J.Desmond Sr. (1909-1979), and Rudolph Valentino (1895-1926), matinee screen idol from the silent movie era.

Bottom line:

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:

Loyola Academy Class of 1927 Senior year: My father, Gerald Joseph Desmond (1909-1970) is the fourth person standing in the second row from the top.  He’s wearing a dark suit and long tie.

Loyola Academy Class of 1927
Junior year: My father, Gerald Joseph Desmond (1909-1970) is the fourth person standing in the second row from the top. He’s wearing a dark suit and long tie. Legendary film actor, Robert Ryan, is standing right behind him.

Robert Ryan

Actors Robert Ryan (right) and Henry Fonda (left) in one of their classic war pictures.

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.

You may recognize Ryan’s name and face from such American movie classics as The Battle of the Bulge, The Dirty Dozen, The Longest Day  and The Wild Bunch, where he played some decidedly macho roles.

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.)

Robert Ryan

Robert Ryan

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.”

Screen legend Robert Ryan in one of his darker  Hollywood films.

Screen legend Robert Ryan in one of his darker Hollywood films.

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, then sold, 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

Robert Ryan (1909-1973)

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 what was to become of the young man sitting next to him 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.

Loyola Academy Class of 1927 My father, Gerald Joseph Desmond (1909-1970) is wearing a light jacket and is standing in the middle row immediately to the right of the two boys wearing the “LA” letter sweaters.

Loyola Academy Class of 1927
My father, Gerald Joseph Desmond (1909-1970) is wearing a light jacket and is standing in the middle row immediately to the right of the two boys wearing the “LA” (Loyola Academy)  letter sweaters. Soon-to-be American screen legend, Robert Ryan (1909-1973), is standing in the back row to the right of the boy in the checkered jacket.

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Copyright © 2013 Patricia Desmond Biallas

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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!

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Movie photos courtesy of IMDB movie database. Loyola Academy class photos from Desmond family photo album

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This entry was posted in American History, Biographies, Chicago History, Family Legends and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Hollywood Comes Calling Again!

  1. Meg Biallas says:

    Wow! The surprises keep coming. How come Grandpa didn’t end up in films?

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