Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Elena Verdugo Passes On

Elena Verdugo, who appeared in such films as House of Frankenstein (1944) and The Pathfinder (1952), and starred as Millie Bronson on the sitcom Meet Millie and as Nurse Consuelo Lopez on the medical drama Marcus Welby M.D., died yesterday, May 30 2017, at the age of 92.

Elena Verdugo was born in Paso Robles, California on April 20 1925. She was a descendent of José María Verdugo, a soldier assigned to the Mission San Gabriel Arcángel in California in the 18th Century. In 1784 he received a grant from Governor Pedro Fages to settle what would be known as Rancho San Rafael. The 36,403 acre land grant covered much of what would become Glendale, Burbank, Eagle Rock, and La Crescenta.

Elena Verdugo took to show business early, taking up dance when she was still in kindergarten. She made her film debut when she was only six years old in the Western Cavalier of the West (1931). While she continued to study dance, she would not appear in another film until she was around 15 years old, appearing in a bit part as an Argentine dancer in the movie Down Argentine Way (1940). Over the next few years she would appear in uncredited, bit parts in such films as Blood and Sand (1941), The Hard-Boiled Canary (1941), Belle Starr (1941), and To the Shores of Tripoli (1942). Her first somewhat substantial role came in 1942 in the movie The Moon and Sixpence. In the Forties she would appear in such films as House of Frankenstein (1944), The Frozen Ghost (1945), Little Giant (1946), The Big Sombrero (1949), The Sky Dragon (1949), The Lost Volcano (1950), and Cyrano de Bergerac (1950). As a singer she sang with the Xavier Cugat Orchestra.

In the Fifties Elena Verdugo would spend more of her career in television. It was in 1952 that she took over the role of Millie on the radio show Meet Millie from Audrey Totter. She also starred on the television version of the sitcom, which ran from 1952 to 1956. She guest starred on such TV shows as Schlitz Playhouse, Big Town, G.E. Theatre, Steve Canyon, The Gale Storm Show: Oh! Susanna, The Bob Cummings Show, Rawhide, and The Red Skelton Show. She continued to appear in movies, including such films as Gene Autry and The Mounties (1951),  Jet Job (1952), Thief of Damascus (1952), The Pathfinder (1952), The Marksman (1953), and Panama Sal (1957).

In the Sixties Miss Verdugo was a regular on the TV shows Redigo, The New Phil Silvers Show, Many Happy Returns, and Mona McCluskey. It was in 1969 that she first started playing Consuelo Lopez, the nurse of the physician of the title on Marcus Welby M.D. The show ran until 1976 and Miss Verdugo remained with it for its entire time. It seems likely that Consuelo Lopez was the first Latina professional ever portrayed on American television. She guest starred on Route 66, 77 Sunset Strip, Petticoat Junction, Mannix, Ironside, and Daniel Boone.  She appeared in the films Day of the Nightmare (1965), How Sweet It Is! (1968), and Angel in My Pocket (1969).

In the Seventies Elena Verdugo continued to appear on Marcus Welby M.D. She guest starred on Love, American Style and Owen Marshall, Counselor at Law. She appeared in the film The Boss' Son (1978).  In the Eighties she guest starred on Emerald Point N.A.S. and Scarecrow and Mrs. King. She appeared in the television reunion movie

Elena Verdugo was not simply another beautiful movie star who eventually drifted into television. She was a woman of multiple talents. She was a skilled dancer and she was utilised as such in many of her early films. She was also a very good singer, and was able to display her singing talent in such films as The Big Sombrero and Gene Autry and the Mounties. Miss Verdugo had a particular gift for comedy. She was excellent in the sitcom Meet Millie, as well as the various sitcoms on which she guest starred and the comedy films she made. At the same time she was quite adept at drama. For many Baby Boomers and older Gen Xers she may always be best remembered as Consuelo Lopez on Marcus Welby M.D., and she appeared on dramatic TV shows from Route 66  to Rawhide. Over the years Elena Verdugo appeared in many movies and TV shows. Given her talent it should be little wonder she was very much in demand.


Caftan Woman said...

This is very sad news for her many fans, of whom I count myself one.

Hal Horn said...

I will be paying tribute to her with her BOB CUMMINGS SHOW appearance later this month. Quite a pioneer, and a very good actress.