BiographySeattle, Washington, USA
Shirley Chambers was notorious as Hollywood's First Dumb Blonde. She began her film career at the dawn of talking pictures and was the first 'dumb blonde' at R.K.O Studios, making whoopee in light comedies, and fluffy musicals. Born in Seattle, Washington, her family moved to California when she was in her infancy. Settling in Pasadena, Chambers was schooled in Huntington Park. By the time she left school in 1928, she was already working as a model. Read more... Wing and Pat Wing. Among her early film credits are The Kid from Spain (1932), 42nd Street(1932) and Gold Diggers of 1933. Chambers made her film debut in the chorus of Whoopee! (1930) starring Eddie Cantor. Deployed in a symmetrical fashion, she and 100 other girls were filmed from above, a new technique which would later became ever associated with Berkeley. In 1932, she left MGM for RKO. After appearing in a series of film shorts, including Diplomaniacs starring the comedy duo Wheeler and Woolsey, and The Iceman's Ball, Chambers was offered the role of Gladys in the Lupe Velez comedy vehicle The Half Naked Truth (1932). "Lupe was the star and being very difficult," she said. "She screamed at the director Gregory la Cava, 'you couldn't do without me', and he was barking back at her, 'I could make a star out of anyone, out of the next person who walked on this set', and in I came through the door". Lupe Velez laughed hysterically when she saw Chambers dressed for her part as Gladys a French Maid, whom in the film is believed is doubling as the leader of a cult of beauty queens. However La Cava stuck to his word and cast Chambers in a bevy of his films. In Melody Cruise (1933) she teamed up with June Brewster as a couple of gold-diggers, both with their eyes on a winsome millionaire (played by Charles Ruggles). Chambers was well on her way to become the studios answer to Jean Harlow. RKO was riding the crest of the wave with a series of box-office hits, including Flying Down to Rio, King Kong and Morning Glory (all 1933) in which she appeared. Rare for the time, Shirley Chambers took an agent and freelanced. She appeared in Dancing Lady (1933) with Joan Crawford, played a manicurist in the Wallace Beery western Viva Villa! (1934), rode into frame as lady Godiva in Nothing Sacred (1937), and took minor roles in George Cukor's The Women, and Gone With the Wind (both 1939). During WWII, she toured with the USO. She became the first screen star to land in South Africa where as part of a theatre company, she entertained hundreds of Allied Forces. In 1943, she returned to the US, and joined the cast of the Moss Hart morale booster, Winged Victory. Opening in Boston it transferred to Broadway, where it became a smash hit, playing to over 350,000 people in 226 performances. During the New York run, Chambers starred alongside Karl Malden and Mario Lanza. Returning to California in the late 1940s, she picked up her career where she left off, making dozens of appearances on television. She married in 1945 and had one daughter. For the last three decades, Chambers was active in repertory theatre and in TV commercials.