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She Was the Next Marilyn Monroe, but She Died Too Soon

Cleo Moore was a talented actress and blonde bombshell who, throughout her relatively short time on this earth, was often compared to Marilyn Monroe. She had a brief but memorable career in Hollywood before sadly meeting her untimely death before she was able to achieve her full potential.

Cleo Moore was born in Louisiana in the 1920s and began her career as a WWII pin-up model before transitioning to acting. She quickly gained attention for her stunning looks and natural talent and soon became one of the most sought-after actresses in Hollywood. Despite her early success, however, Cleo’s life was not without its struggles, as she faced many challenges throughout her career, including sexism and discrimination. Despite these hardships, however, she never let anything hold her back.

In this video, we will delve into the fascinating, albeit tragic, life of Cleo Moore and explore how she became one of Hollywood’s most iconic actresses. We will examine her early years back in Baton Rouge, as well as her rise to fame in the 1950s and her tragic death. We will also take a closer look at some of her most memorable performances while exploring how she became known as the “next Marilyn Monroe.”

Facts Verse Presents: She Was the Next Marilyn Monroe, but She Died Too Soon

Early Life and Rise To Fame Of Cleo Moore

Cleo Moore was born Cleouna Moore either on  October 31, 1924, or October 25, 1973 – depending on who you ask – in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Her father runs a grocery store and her parents involve in politics. She raises in the nearby town of Gonzales where she attends public school. After graduating from High School, she enrolled in a secretorial course at Pope’s Commercial College in Baton Rouge, thinking that  a career path in that field might be her best option. But obviously, fate had very different plans for the young blonde beauty.

Moore began her career as a model before making the transition over to acting. She discovers by a talent scout while working as a pin-up model in New York City and signs a contract with RKO Pictures. After signing with the studio, Moore made her film debut in 1948 in the film “Embraceable You” and went on to appear in several other films throughout the 1940s and early 1950s, including Congo Bill and Dynamite Pass.

At this point in her career, Moore is quite “starry-eyed”. She undoubtedly had high hopes for the future and was more than likely convinced by those whispering in her ear that her looks were the key to her success. After all, if it works for Marilyn, then it bounds to pay off for her too, right? Unfortunately, as you’ll soon see, beauty alone wasn’t enough to guarantee a long and stable career in motion pictures for this admittedly gorgeous young actress.

The Columbia Days Of Cleo Moore

After finishing up her contract with RKO, Cleo signed with Columbia Pictures in 1952. Right out of the gate, the studio had big plans for the young starlet. They hoped to mold her into their next big star. Just as 20th Century Fox had their Marilyn Monroe, Columbia fully intended to transform Moore into their signature blonde bombshell sex symbol.

In order to compete with Monroe, Moore instructs to bleach her hair platinum blonde. Around this time, Columbia started pitching her as their ‘Next Big Thing” as well as the “The Blonde Rita Hayworth”.

Although she had already achieved limited success with RKO, she first gained attention when she appeared in Nicholas Ray’s 1952 noir flick On Dangerous Ground playing an ill-fated gun moll. After appearing in that film, she began receiving starring roles in bigger films.

One Girl’s Confession

Moore’s big break comes when she casts in the film “One Girl’s Confession” in 1953. The film directs by Hugo Haas, who goes on to cast Moore in several more films over the next few years, such as The Neighbors Wife and Bait – both of which saw her sharing the screen with John Agar. From there, Moore quickly became known for her stunning looks and natural talent, and soon became one of the most sought-after actresses in Hollywood.

In 1954, she receives a starring role in The Other Woman. In that film, she played a B-film bit player who takes a vengeful swipe at her movie director after he declines an offer for her to star in his big feature film. Unfortunately, despite their once lofty plans for her, In the eyes of Columbia Moore’s career began to fade following the release of The Other Woman.

Women’s Prison

Around this time, perhaps after seeing the writing on the wall so to speak, Columbia opted to sign another young, beautiful, and talented newcomer named Kim Novak. After signing her contract, Novak puts through the same process that Moore went through just a couple of years prior, with the studio molding her to become their next big star. After making this move, Columbia began casting Moore primarily in forgettable B-movies.

Then, she appears in a supporting role in 1955’s Women’s Prison, Moore briefly signed with Universal Pictures to portray a suicidal prostitute in the now widely forgotten low-budget thriller Hold Back Tomorrow. That film saw her once again sharing the screen with John Agar.

In 1956, Moore played a predatory career girl in the film Over-Exposed. A year later, she made her final film appearance In Hit and Run. Having grown disillusioned by the industry and frustrated by studios and producers constantly giving her the runaround, Moore retired from acting following the release of that film.

Nothing Set Her Apart

During this particularly notorious era of 1950s Hollywood, Moore was just one of many buxom blonde bombshells that managed to achieve a modicum of success. The most famous of which was obviously Marilyn Monroe, who opened the door for other stars such as Jayne Mansfield, Diana Doren, Mamie Van Doren, and Greta Thyssen to follow in her footsteps.

While the idea of molding into the “next big thing” was probably pretty enticing for Moore – at least initially – she quickly learned that she was essentially disposable. Beautiful blondes were a dime a dozen back in those days, and really, if she wanted to find that same degree of success that Monroe had found, she would have had to do something truly remarkable to set herself apart from the rest of the pack. Unfortunately, despite being a gifted and versatile actress, she lacked that “it factor” that really made her special in the eyes of the money and power-hungry studio executives that basically only saw her as a commodity. To be fair, they likely never really banked on her success in the first place. Yet again, to them, she was just another asset jingling around in their pockets.

Hollywood’s Expectation Of Cleo Moore

As many other stars that came before and after her experienced, Hollywood was – and really still is – a place that is completely content with luring you in, using you up, and spitting you out with no regards to your well-being or happiness after you’ve stopped generating a profit. They may make all of these high-flown promises offering you a world of gold, glitz, and glamour, but at the end of the day, all they really offer for the vast majority of aspiring stars is a pipe dream. And when that dream is over, they move on to the next aspiring star to start the process all over again.

Goodbye Hollywood

After retiring from acting, Cleo Moore found success in real estate. She became a savvy businesswoman and invested heavily in properties, particularly in the Beverly Hills area. Moore’s passion for real estate earned her a reputation as one of the most successful female real estate developers of her time.

As for her love life, Cleo Moore was married twice. Her first marriage was to Palmer Long, the youngest son of Huey Long, the former Governor of the state of Louisiana who got assassinated while he was serving as a Louisiana state senator. Her second marriage was to multi-millionaire Herbert Heftler, who worked as a real estate developer. The couple remained married until Moore’s death in 1973 and lived on an estate in Beverley Hills located in the Coldwater Canyon region.

The Early Death

Despite her successful career and marriage, Cleo Moore never had any children. Instead, she focused her energy on her real estate ventures and philanthropic activities.

Sadly, Cleo Moore passed away on October 25, 1973. According to contradictory reports she was either 44 or 49 at the time of her death. She died in her sleep but her death was likely caused by a heart attack. After news of her passing became a matter of public knowledge, it came as a shock to her fans and the Hollywood community.

At the time of her death, Cleo Moore had largely been forgotten by the media and the public. However, her passing did create a stir among her loyal fans and those who remembered her as one of Hollywood’s most iconic actresses and sex symbols.

Tinsel Town’s Facade

Despite her brief stint in Hollywood, Cleo Moore left an indelible mark on the industry and on the hearts of her fans. Her legacy continues to inspire aspiring actors and actresses to this day, and her success in real estate serves as a testament to her intelligence and business savvy.

Cleo Moore ended up leaving Hollywood behind after it failed to live up to her expectations, but she was by no-means the only actress of that era who ended up growing disillusioned with Tinsel Town’s facade. Other blonde bombshells who retired from acting include Betty Hutton, who left Hollywood in the 1950s after experiencing personal and professional setbacks, and Barbara Payton, whose career was cut short by personal struggles with addiction and a tumultuous personal life. While each of these actresses faced unique challenges and circumstances, their stories serve as a reminder of the sometimes brutal realities of Hollywood stardom. Just remember, all that glitters isn’t gold.

We’re just about out of time here, but before you move on to watching another one of our facts-packed videos, take a moment to share your thoughts down below in the comments. Did you know that Cleo Moore was once molded by Columbia Pictures to be their ‘next big thing’ and that she was also intended to be the studio’s answer to 20th Century Fox’s Marilyn Monroe? Let us know, and as always, thanks for watching!

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