Wilma Wyatt, Knoxville, Is Dixie Lee Of Follies
She Shocked Her Family But Made a Hit in the Movies.
By Margaret A. Write
The Knoxville Journal, Aug. 3, 1929
Hear how a Knoxville girl landed in Hollywood!
She shocked her mother until that lady was in despair.
In the language of her father, “She tried so damn many things I told her not to do, and put them over, that when she got into this movie business, I kept my mouth shut.”
Not only did the family keep its mouth shut, but it followed Dixie Lee in her invasion of Hollywood. Now Dixie Lee has come back to Knoxville as a star in the Fox Movietone Follies showing at the Riviera this week.
Wilma Was Her Name.
She was born at 1313 Western Avenue, 19 years ago, as plain Wilma Wyatte. But you know how these stars are when it comes to adopting “hi-falutin” names. She made a hit with her “silly” songs in Chicago and New York. Now she has signed a five-year contract to act in the movies, beginning at $250 per week, with a $50 weekly raise every six-month period.
She is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. E.E. Wyatt, originally of Wheat, Roane County. Her father held various jobs in Knoxville when Wilma was a small child. At one time he was a street car motorman, then a conductor. Then he was in the employ of the Knoxville Iron Company.
Later he became connected with an insurance company which sent him to Texas. J.E. Monger, of Byington, is a brother of Wilma‘s mother and is, therefore, Dixie Lee‘s uncle. She has other relatives in Knoxville. Mrs. S.T. Reagan and the Scarbros are her cousins.
She visited Mr. Monger’s family a few years ago, and even then she was a high-stepper, according to Mr. Monger. “She was always dancing and singing and acting,” he says. “Dressing up in boy’s clothes and riding horseback were her favorite pastimes. We thought she was wild. And her mother, a quiet, gentle soul, was shocked and mortified at her daughter’s actions. She always has been shocked, but she has had to hurry to keep up with her daughter. She is some daughter, I’d say.”
Miss Lee, as the movie magazines would say, was educated in the city schools of New Orleans. There she began her singing which later secured her in a vaudeville engagement in Chicago. The rest was easy.
Family Went Along.
Moving about as they did, the Wyatt’s were never embarrassed with an accumulation of property. It was easy for the entire family to move with Dixie Lee. The family consists of just the movie star and her parents. Two older sisters died before they reached young womanhood. Being an only child, has been an asset to Dixie Lee in carrying her points in the family.
Mr. Monger has a collection of photographs of his beautiful niece. She is now engaged in playing a leading part in “Why Leave Home” to be released early next year. It has not been announced when she will come back to knoxville for a visit.
“Dixie Lee is perhaps better known today as Mrs. Bing Crosby and the mother of three big healthy baby boys, two of them twins born a little more than a year ago. But the diminutive Dixie is a stage and screen star by her own right. She was born in Tennessee and gifted with beauty and personality. She was a clever and entertaining singer and dancer, winning an amateur contest sponsored by the famed College Inn of the Hotel Sherman in Chicago. Her success in the venture lead to professional engagements and Broadway musical comedy producers bid for her services.
“This led to a film offer and a three-year contract followed, but along came Bing Crosby and wedding bells. Dixie then retired from the screen and it appeared that she had renounced her career permanently. But a few months ago, Paramount offered her the lead in ‘Love in Bloom’ which was a big hit. Next, Twentieth Century Fox selected her for the lead in ‘Redheads on Parade’ opposite John Boles…” — Blackwell Journal-Tribune, November 11, 1935