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Priscilla Lane; Singer, Actress in '30s and '40s

April 07, 1995|MYRNA OLIVER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Priscilla Lane, a singer and actress perhaps best remembered as part of a sister act in a series of sentimental films for Warner Bros. during the 1930s and '40s, has died. She was 76.

Miss Lane, who abandoned her career and moved east when she married, died Tuesday in a nursing home in Andover, Mass.

Born Priscilla Mullican in Indianola, Iowa, Miss Lane worked with two of her four sisters, Lola and Rosemary, and actress Gale Page as four sisters in the series of family-oriented films--"Four Daughters" in 1938, "Four Wives" in 1939 and "Four Mothers" in 1940. The fictional sisters were much like their real counterparts, who as youngsters were affectionately known as "the dentist's daughters" in their small town of 4,000.

A fourth sister, Leota, who trained as an opera singer, joined them for some Hollywood appearances. A fifth sister, Martha, never went into show business.

On her own, Priscilla Lane performed opposite some of Hollywood's most famous leading men in such popular films as "Brother Rat" in 1938 with Ronald Reagan and Eddie Albert, "The Roaring Twenties" in 1939 with James Cagney and Humphrey Bogart, and "Arsenic and Old Lace" in 1944 with Cary Grant.

Controversial for her era, she starred in "Yes, My Darling Daughter" in 1939, which was banned by New York censors because her character spent an unchaperoned weekend with a man. She was suspended twice by Warner Bros. for turning down roles that she considered unsuitable.

Miss Lane was discovered by orchestra leader Fred Waring and began her career as a singer. She and her sisters toured with his band, the Pennsylvanians.

Miss Lane's first marriage, to assistant director Orin W. Haglund, lasted one day. She then met Joseph A. Howard at a dude ranch near Victorville and ended her career to move with him to Andover and raise a family.

She returned to show business briefly in the late 1950s as host of "The Priscilla Lane Show" on a local television station in Boston.

Her sisters and husband preceded her in death. Miss Lane is survived by four children and six grandchildren.

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