Beverly Tyler, 78; Actress Played Opposite Rooney, Lawford in 1940s and '50s

Times Staff Writer

Beverly Tyler, a film actress from the 1940s and '50s who signed a studio contract at 14, then grew up to make 16 films, including a lightweight comedy with Peter Lawford, has died. She was 78.

Tyler died of a pulmonary embolism Nov. 23 at South Meadows Hospital in Reno, Nev., said her son, James W. Jordan.

Two weeks after Tyler had her first screen test at the New York City office of MGM, she was on her way to Culver City with her parents and making $75 a week, mainly to attend school on the studio lot while waiting for her big break.

Several years later, she received attention for portraying a Scottish girl in the sentimental "The Green Years" in 1946.

"Whatever it is that sets the actress apart from the would-be, the professional from the professed, Miss Tyler has it," The Times said in a 1946 feature about Tyler and the film.

A year later, she starred opposite Lawford in "My Brother Talks to Horses."

Although MGM discovered her singing on the radio, she sang in only one film, "Best Foot Forward," in 1943, and then only briefly, according to the Internet Movie Database.

The studio granted Tyler a leave of absence in 1945 so she could appear on Broadway in the Kurt Weill musical, "The Firebrand of Florence," which closed after a month.

Following the first-night curtain, pianist-raconteur Oscar Levant sought her out to tell her, "You are the most talented young singer I have ever seen on the stage," The Times reported in 1946.

In Hollywood, she starred in a series of mainly B movies, including a Mickey Rooney vehicle, "The Fireball," and "The Palomino," both from 1950.

She made her last film, "Toughest Gun in Tombstone," in 1958.

She was born Beverly Jean Saul on July 5, 1927, in Scranton, Pa. Her father worked for a typewriter company and her mother was a secretary. At a young age, she studied piano and singing.

Socially, she was often linked to actors, including Lawford, Rooney, Audie Murphy and Rory Calhoun, but married a comedy writer and director, Jim Jordan Jr., in 1962. Jordan's parents were the vaudeville team behind the "Fibber McGee and Molly" radio show.

When her husband wanted to move to Reno in the early 1960s to become a developer, Tyler left Hollywood behind.

In addition to her son, she is survived by three stepdaughters.

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