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Evelyn Venable; Actress, UCLA Teacher

November 26, 1993|MYRNA OLIVER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Evelyn Venable, Shakespearean actress and later a professor of classics who played ingenue film roles in the 1930s and was believed to be the model for Columbia Pictures' statuesque movie logo, has died. She was 80.

Miss Venable, the widow of Academy Award-winning cinematographer Hal Mohr, died of cancer Nov. 16 at the home of a daughter in Post Falls, Ida.

Abandoning her acting career in the early 1940s to raise her daughters, Dolores and Rosalia, Miss Venable returned to college when her children enrolled and in 1957 began a long second career at UCLA lecturing in the classics.

She was descended from a long line of teachers, growing up in Cincinnati as the daughter of a Shakespearean scholar who arranged for her to audition with the Shakespearean company of Walter Hampden.

Abandoning college after a year at Vassar and a few months at the University of Cincinnati, Miss Venable toured with Hampden's troupe, performing in "Cyrano de Bergerac," "Hamlet," "Romeo and Juliet" and "A Midsummer Night's Dream."

She was playing Ophelia at Los Angeles' Biltmore Theater when a Paramount talent scout signed her to a film contract.

Miss Venable made her screen debut in 1933 in "Cradle Song" and was perhaps best remembered for her roles opposite Fredric March in "Death Takes a Holiday," with Will Rogers in "David Harum" and as the voice of the Blue Fairy in Walt Disney's "Pinocchio."

Her other films included "Double Door," "Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch," "Alice Adams," "The Little Colonel," "North of Nome," "My Old Kentucky Home" and "The Frontiersman."

She cultivated a wholesome image, frequently requiring her contracts to preclude any roles featuring on-screen kisses.

Cinematographer Stanley Cortez, a family friend who worked with Mohr, said that Miss Venable was chosen as the original model for the statue in the Columbia film logo because of her wholesome, all-American good looks. Her image appeared for many years but was subsequently replaced with more contemporary models.

Years later, as a UCLA professor, she was happy to be known as Mrs. Mohr by students who knew nothing of her Hollywood background and weren't even born when she gave it all up.

"Frankly, I wasn't thrilled with my roles, always the straight ingenue," she told The Times in 1974.

Miss Venable put her theater background to good use in her second career, directing and producing classic plays such as "Antigone."

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