Shirley Palmer

born: 25 December 1908
Chicago, Illinois,
United States of America
*one source indicates Russia as a possible birth location
died: 29 March 2000
St. John's Hospital, Santa Monica, California,
United States of America
(after a fall, age 91)

Beautiful American actress who had a brief film career. She was born Sarah Pomerantz to Bertha (née Hellman, 1883-1959) and Jankel (Jacob) Pomerantz (1872/75-1944), both Russian Jews. Jacob was a grocer and retail merchant who immigrated to the U.S. in 1907 and was naturalized in 1921. Sarah/Shirley was the third of five children, her siblings being Fanny (Faye) (m. Burgett, 1903-1990), Ida (or Irene) (m. Cuffe, 1906-2002), Edna (Joan) (m. Kaufman, 1914/15-1972), and Harold (1916-2009). Ida and Joan were actresses, the former known as "The Actress of 1,000 Faces," while Harold "Tiger" Palmer became a Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps and later founded his own real estate agency, Harold "Tiger" Palmer Realty.
Shirley would give Chicago, Illinois, USA, where she was raised, as her birthplace, but the 1920 Census says she was born in Russia (and immigrated to the U.S. in 1914), and her age given (12) at the time (the 1920 U.S. Census was taken in her area on 16-17 Jan 1920) suggests a possible 1907 birth year. Jacob and Bertha would separate and divorce at some point, possibly in the early 1920s. The family moved to California around 1924, per Harold's obituary (2009).
On 10 June 1925, Shirley was riding the Giant Dipper, a roller coaster in Venice, CA, with a companion when a sudden stop caused her to sustain "a badly bruised arm and a swollen lip." She was due to start a picture for Sherwood Macdonald Pictures, Inc., but now, "Until her lip is healed she can't do a thing." On 23 March 1926, she sued the Venice Giant Dipper Company for $15,000, stating that when riding the dipper in June, "she was thrown out and injured. She attributes the accident to negligence on the part of the management." I couldn't find anything on the results of this particular lawsuit, but the Venice Giant Dipper Company was subject to a number of lawsuits by injured plaintiffs around that time and throughout the 1930s, including an unsuccessful $20,500 one in 1929 by the wife of Kit Guard, who suffered a broken nose two years prior after a sudden stop caused her to smash into the rail. The Giant Dipper was in operation from 1924 to 1946.
On 18 January 1936, Shirley Lee Palmer, now a reader for the 20th Century Fox studio, married English author and screenwriter John Collier. On the marriage certificate, Shirley claims her father is English-born John Palmer. They would travel around Europe for several years, including France, Great Britain, and Ireland. The Colliers separated on 2 July 1941, with Collier agreeing to give Shirley $50 a week in alimony. On 27 October 1941, Shirley sued John for divorce, charging cruelty; her temporary alimony was upped to $150 a week from Collier. On 14 December 1942, the divorce was granted by Judge Charles E. Haas, with testimony from Shirley's sister, Mrs. Joan Kaufman (who stated that Collier was a man "who wants what he wants when he wants it"). Shirley claimed that Collier made fun of her attempts at cooking (particularly when she didn't put potatoes in a stew) and criticized her in front of her friends (calling her "a bloody idiot," for example). As part of the property settlement, Shirley would receive a third of Collier's net earnings. Shirley Palmer Collier became a "highly respected literary agent," with offices in New York and in Los Angeles. She continued in this line of work into her eighties, when she retired, capping off a "more than 55-year-career in the entertainment industry" that began as an actress in the 1920s. An obituary in the Los Angeles Times (12 Apr 2000) noted she was "a wise businesswoman who made judicious investments in real estate and the stock market. Over the years, the revenue from these enabled her to provide donations and endowments to many charities and organizations." These included literary and English scholarships and awards.
As the obituary notes, "Shirley Collier . . . died peacefully on March 29 [2000] at St. John's Hospital [in Santa Monica], having never recovered from a bad fall in her Brentwood residence."
Real name: Sarah Pomerantz
Height: 5'3"
Films listed on this page: complete Hal Roach filmography;
plus 1 film with Babe Hardy.


Scared Stiff

Forgotten Sweeties

Flying Elephants

A Bankrupt Honeymoon
Shirley Lee

Acknowledgements & sources: (1920 Census) (1930 Census) (1936 marriage) (1939 pass. list) (Social Security Death Index) (Los Angeles Times, 12 Apr 2000) (1929 Motion Picture News Blue Book) (1930 Motion Picture News Blue Book) (Los Angeles Evening Citizen News, 17 Jun 1925) (Los Angeles Times, 24 Mar 1926) (Suburbanite Economist [Chicago, IL], 14 Oct 1927) (Los Angeles Evening Citizen News, 15 Sep 1938) (Los Angeles Times, 28 Oct 1941) (Los Angeles Evening Citizen News, 31 Oct 1941) (Daily News [Los Angeles, CA], 01 Nov 1941) (Daily News [New York, NY], 02 Nov 1941) (Los Angeles Evening Citizen News, 21 Nov 1941) (Los Angeles Times, 15 Dec 1942) (Santa Cruz Sentinel, 15 Dec 1942) (Daily News [Los Angeles, CA], 24 Dec 1942) (father Jankel [Jacob] Pomerantz in IL Nat. Index, 1921) (father Jankel [Jacob] Pomerantz in IL Nat. Index, 1921) (sister Faye Palmer's marriage, 1931) (sister Edna [a.k.a. Joan] Palmer's marriage, 1938) (mother Bertha [Hellman] Pomerantz's re-marriage, 1941) (mother Bertha Schwartz/Palmer's death certificate, 1959) (brother Harold Palmer's obituary, 2009)
Jesse Brisson (research and information; identification in Flying Elephants)

This page was last updated on: 24 May 2021