Epilogue to Aggie’s Autobiography

After “The Enemy,” Aggie worked on two successful pictures for Marion Davies: “The Patsy” and “Show People.” Since both films were directed by King Vidor, it’s likely that the Catalina incident my father described in his 1980 letter occurred during this period. (See Summary of Concluding Chapters)

Aggie’s IMDb credits include many more pictures, indicating that she successfully made the transition to ‘talkies.’ She worked on most of the Andy Hardy movies starring a teen-age Mickey Rooney, and two of the “Janie” movies about a high-spirited teenager. Her daughter, Ruth, wrote, “Aggie became Hollywood’s authority on ‘teen-agers,’ writing for Deanna Durbin, Shirley Temple, and Mickey Rooney in the Hardy Series. Where did she get her expertise? From her children, of course! Card files were placed in our schools and colleges and our friends were invited to contribute anecdotes and teen-talk. Usable items brought the contributor from $1 to $5.”

According to IMDb, Frank also wrote several original stories in the 1930’s that were made into movies, such as “Helldorado” with Frank Bellamy. His last movie credit is for “Nobody’s Fool” in 1936.

In the 1950’s, Aggie and Frank dabbled with television, writing five episodes for two television series, Fireside Theater and Lux Video Theater. In 1952, they also accepted an assignment from the State Department involving a long trip to Germany, where their research included a tug-boat trip down the Rhine River, a ride on a military train through the Russian Zone in Berlin, and stays in Frankfurt, Cologne, and Munich. Purportedly, they were to write scripts, but one can imagine their duties might have included a few clandestine meetings!

Aggie and Frank had spent their money freely, and faced retirement with no pension and no savings. Ruth wrote, “This they solved by moving to Mexico. Settling in a country village near Guadalajara, they passed twelve of the most emotionally satisfying years of their lives. During their daily walks they practiced Spanish by making friends with everyone, rich and poor alike. Often they use their battered old car as an ambulance, rushing some sick villager to the city for a free consultation with some doctor friend. Aggie and Frank helped build a schoolhouse and establish a medical clinic. They nursed a small polio victim through a series of operations so he could walk, then arranged for an education, which enabled him to work and help his family. “

Besides writing stories and articles for numerous magazines, in 1966, Aggie and Frank published a novel, “Pepe the Bad One,” based on the people and experiences they had in Mexico. The book jacket reads, “The Dazey’s have known many Pepys—Mexican boys who are poor but fundamentally honest, hardworking, loyal, polite, kindly, and incredibly courageous.” In yet another brush with fame, family lore is that “Pepe” was on the top of the pile on Walt Disney’s desk when he died.

When Frank’s health deteriorated, they gave up the house in Mexico and returned to California, where Aggie lived within walking distance of the nursing home where Frank spent his last days. As Ruth wrote, “My mother settled near Mitchell in a funny beach-town apartment she called her ‘hippy pad.’ She made friends with the beach clan and entertained her college-aged grandchildren in what she felt was an appropriate environment. She lived well below the poverty level, but never found it dismal or degrading. But then, throughout her life, she had never yearned for status symbols or material possessions. Much more important were people, and she found interesting, friendly people everywhere.”

***

Editor’s note: I often visited Grandma Aggie in her Hermosa Beach apartment, and we corresponded regularly when I went off to college. I hope to write more about my memories of Aggie, but I will end this epilogue here, with belated thanks to Ruth Phelan, who wrote a lovely tribute after Aggie’s death in 1978, and Mitchell Dazey, who gave me the manuscript and encouraged me to take on this project. My only regret is that my father did not live long enough to see Aggie’s Autobiography published. In the end, though, all of Aggie and Frank’s descendants will now have a chance to know them and the amazing life they lived. ~SS

 

 

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