Former Copacabana chorus girl Edna Ryan – who was frequently described in gossip columns as a “one-girl traffic jam” and a “long-legged blonde stunner out of the front line” – has died at the age of 95. Edna began working in the chorus at the Copacabana in the mid-1940s. The club was famously bankrolled by the mobster Frank Costello and was a celebrity hotspot where wealthy society types dined alongside film stars, sports heroes, and foreign dignitaries. The club was particularly noted for its chorus girls, and Edna was one of its most popular. It was Hugh Hefner who famously said the ultra-glam Edna had the “finest pins on the planet.”
After being dumped by baseball player Leo “The Lip” Durocher (love that name!) in 1946, Edna left Manhattan for Hollywood, signing a one-year contract with 20th Century Fox where, sadly, she did little more than work as an extra and pose for publicity photos.
During her Hollywood years, from the late 1940s to the later 1950s, she had a string of minor film roles, often in musicals. In 1948 he played George Raft’s buttoned-up secretary in Race Street and a party girl in the noir thriller Raw Deal (both 1948). The same year she appeared uncredited in Ladies of the Chorus with Marilyn Monroe and in When My Baby Smiles at Me alongside Betty Grable. In 1955 she danced in a short pink tutu with Ann Miller in the musical Hit the Deck. The following year she appeared in Meet Me in Las Vegas.
Edna Ryan modelled for advertising campaigns for Alka-Seltzer, Ray-Ban sunglasses, and Delsey luggage and continued to dance on television shows such as The Dean Martin Show and The Eddie Fisher Show. In later life she made guest appearances in the television series The Incredible Hulk and Charlie’s Angels and was a member of the Copa Club, a group for former Copacabana dancers.
I’d love to find that Charlie’s Angel’s episode. I wonder if the Angels knew who she was?
Living in Hollywood, you so often see very well-put-together older women and wonder what if they were once “somebodies” – if they were starlets or chorus girls or Hollywood wives or heiresses. Were they once the third nun from the left in some movie? Did they once date Errol Flynn? Were they in all the society columns? And I love finding these stories about stars I’ve never heard of – “The Girl with the Million Dollar Smile!” “Miss Golden Gams!”. It makes me think that in 60 years or so, people will be reading the obituaries of our reality stars and viral stars and underground celebrities and have no idea who they were or why they were famous. Dust in the wind, and all that. Anyway. RIP Edna Ryan.
Full obituary here.