Rita Johnson (Who’s Who at MGM, 1937) 🇺🇸

January 09, 2022

When Rita Johnson was in high school in Worcester, Mass., she wanted a role in the senior class play. But the director said very kindly that he was afraid she would never learn to be an actress. It was a great disappointment to Rita, who had been trying out for every role in every school play for four years, and had never been given a part.

After the announcement that Rita had signed a contract as a featured player with M-G-M, she received a telegram of congratulation that made her supremely happy. It was from the high school play director.

She is the daughter of Lillian and William J. Johnson, and was born in Worcester, Mass., August 13.

After attending grade school and high school in Worcester, Rita was graduated as vice-president of her class.

Following graduation she took a job in her mother’s tea room to pay for lessons in dramatics. Once a week she went to the school in a town 30 miles from her home.

Accomplished Pianist

Later she attended the New England Conservatory of Music, studying piano. She is an accomplished pianist and her favorite composer is Debussy.

While going to the conservatory she conceived the idea that the springboard to success as an actress was to become famous in some other line. Being a good swimmer, she decided to become an Olympic champion. She trained for the trials, but they were finally scheduled for a distant city and she didn’t have enough money to pay her expenses.

Then plans for a season of plays by a new civic repertory company were announced in Worcester. Rita saw the manager and asked him to let her play small parts. He agreed, and also suggested she might like to sell subscription tickets for the series.

Sold Tickets for Stock

Rita took a block of tickets, selling them to friends and relatives. The company, which included Rosalind Russell, Madge Kennedy, and Lynn Overman, came to town, playing with moderate success, but after two weeks the manager suddenly departed, taking all the receipts and leaving players and holders of season tickets high and dry.

Rita, after her brief moments behind the footlights, went back to work in the tea room, not to earn money for more lessons in dramatic school, but to pay back her friends for the season tickets.

After the debts were paid Rita got a job playing in a stock company with Florence Reed and Conrad Nagel in Milwaukee, and later toured New England with Louise Galloway, playing in town halls and schoolhouses. Then followed a summer season in the theatre at Brookfield, Mass., with Dennis King and Eva Le Gallienne. Later she went to New York where she played in “Fulton of Oak Falls” and “If This Be Treason,” produced by the Theatre Guild.

Makes Good On Stage

After making good on the New York stage, Rita decided to fill in time between plays by radio appearances. Soon she was playing in radio serials, on comedy broadcasts, and had roles in “The March of Time.”

She came to Hollywood this spring for a screen test and was given a contract as a featured player at M-G-M.

In rapid succession she has appeared in “London by Night,” “My Dear Miss Aldrich,” and “The Four Marys.”

A blue-eyed blonde, she is five feet, four inches tall, and weighs 110 pounds.

Her favorite authors are Galsworthy, Walpole, O. Henry and Maupassant; playwrights, Noel Coward, Eugene O’Neill and Ibsen; painter, Van Gogh, and historical characters. Queen Elizabeth and Mary, Queen of Scots.

Source: Who’s Who at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1937