1950s #1 Move to San Fernando Valley. Recording Industry LA. Celebrity Connections. Leith Stevens.

Hereafter known as SFV.

1950

Aerial view of Sherman Oaks in 1950 around the time Diana Cotterell and her family moved to this area.

Around this year Diana and her family move to 13055 Moorpark St., located on the west side of Studio City close to the eastern border with Sherman Oaks. Specifically, off of the intersection of Coldwater Canyon and Ventura Blvd.

This image shows the Hughes Market that stood on that intersection. I believe it is the southeast corner.

From the facebook page “SFV in the 50, 60s, 70s.

The Los Angeles River is nearby as is Sportsman’s Lodge; a classic Hollywood stars and SFV landmark. Apparently you could fish there.

I first connected the family to 13055 Moorpark St. address by an online city building permit:

The LaRoccas are requesting a house alteration to make more rooms and a seperate entrance for a “rental unit.”

Diana’s father Robert Morgan Cotterell also moved to the SFV around this time, but further west of his daughters and ex-wife. His current wife Pat and their two children, start out in the Canoga Park/Winnetka area on Lurline Ave.  

It’s the first of many moves for them around Los Angeles due to Bob Cotterell Sr.’s career at Douglas Aircraft.

It is unknown exactly why the The LaRocca/Cotterell family moved to the SFV, but we do know that they were part of a massive migration to the SFV after World War 2, from both inside and outside of Los Angeles.

“The end of WW2 transformed the Valley and vastly accelerated its growth: vast tracts of suburban housing, shopping centers and industrial parks where chicken ranches, orchards and cattle ranches and wheat fields once existed. The 1940s and 50s, when I was growing up, the Valley was full of movie cowboys, beautiful ranches and fine horses.”  

Jerry England at cowboyup.com

“In the five years after the war, the population (of SFV) more than doubled to 402,538 residents-the pastoral San Fernando Valley was suddenly the ninth-busiest urban area in the nation. Valley society was a mix of young suburbanites, older families who had come west to try their luck as engineers, animators, or pioneers in the new field of television, and ranchers trying to hang on in the face of the new hordes.”

The San Fernando Valley: America’s Suburb by Kevin Roderick

Patriarch Joseph Ned LaRocca to adapted to the waning popularity of radio programs by working for Leith Stevens as an orchestra manager in the growing LA recording industry.

Ned already had experience with “adapting”to a new mass medium, when his first industry, vaudeville, died out in the early 30s during the Great Depression.

One significant factor that changed radio was the rise of TV in the 1950s. Drama and comedy serials moved to TV.

In 1950, just under 20 percent of American homes contained a TV set. Ten years later, nearly 90 percent of homes contained a TV—and some even had color TVs. The number of TV stations, channels, and programs all grew to meet this surging demand.

encyclopedia.com

And

The importance of television for the film industry during the 1950s cannot be overstated. It has been argued that television was the primary factor affecting the dramatic plunge in ticket sales, box-office receipts, and company profits in Hollywood between 1947 and 1957.

encyclopedia.com

 I discovered that Ned LaRocca spent most of the 1950s working as an orchestra manager for composer/conductor Leith Stevens.

Ned La Rocca death certificate. Indicates working for Leith Stevens; conductor composer for TV and Movies.

I can confirm two Leith Stevens projects that have a credit as “contractor” for Ned LaRocca: A Doris Day album recorded in 1951 at 1032 Sycamore Street; a studio known at that time as “The Annex.”

Secondly, the 1953 score to the Marlon Brando movie “The Wild One.”  This became a successful album released by Decca records and remains Leith Stevens most well-known and well-regarded creation.  J. Ned LaRocca is credited as “Contractor” on the project. Per Discogs.com.

The website careerexplorer.com defines an orchestra contractor is:  “He or she has the job of finding the appropriate musicians for Broadway shows, television episodes and commercials.”

Besides composing the popular “The Wild One” soundtrack and album, Leith Stevens composed numerous scores used for stock music in radio shows, movies and  TV.

 IMDB says many of his compositions go uncredited. Stevens had a  diverse career; in the 1950s, he composed music used in films and TV series such as the George Burns and Gracie Allen Show, Ma and Pa Kettle, Earth vs. Flying Saucers, Crusader Rabbit (a T.V. series), the Ann Sothern Show, and the Twilight Zone.

More on Leith Stevens soon.

1940s PARENTS Marriage Hollywood Wedding Chapel. Honeymoon. WW2. P.O.W. Divorce. Arbolada Rd.

Robert M. Cotterell was 23 and Donna LaRocca 19 when they were married in 1940.

Certificate of marriage for Robert M. Cotterell and Donna Virginia LaRocca. Mildred K. Marinelli signature listed on next to last line. Mildred is the daughter of Joseph LaRocca’s only sister Kathryn LaRocca Marinelli. Mildred and Donna are first cousins.

Diana’s father Robert Morgan Cotterell was born around 1917 in Algon, Iowa. He moved to Los Angeles around 1938 to follow his interest in aviation.

Diana’s mother Donna Virginia LaRocca was born in 1921, in Peoria, Illinois. 

Donna’s parents were Ned and Virginia LaRocca, vaudevillians who travelled the Pantages, Orpheum and other vaudeville circuits for about the first 10 years of her life.

Donna LaRocca moved with her parents to Los Angeles around 1934.

Below is the Hollywood Wedding Chapel where Robert and Donna were married as stated on the marriage certificate. The location is about one block from the infamous and historic Chateau Marmont hotel.  The famed Garden of Allah apartment building was across the street.

Located a stone’s throw to Chateau Marmont. Found on the internet.
Hollywood Citizen Nov. 15, 1940 Miss Penny Pepper????????

This Hollywood Wedding Chapel building was purchased by famous director/writer Preston Sturges in 1940; he transformed it into “Players” restaurant, a movie business watering hole. Players has its’ own interesting Hollywood and LA history.

Donna and Robert must have been one of the last couples to marry at the chapel before Sturges took over.

Currently, 8225 Sunset Blvd is a Pink Taco restaurant. 

 1944 Second Lieutenant Army Air Corps Heavy Bomber Robert M. Cotterell was captured on May 27th and imprisoned in a German POW camp. His address is listed as 3712 Arbolada as seen in the cutout below.

 (Robert Cotterell is listed with the Evans address on his daughter Diana Lee’s birth certificate.)

LAT Aug. 19, 1944

Robert Cotterell’s daughter Constance is 2 years old, and Diana only 5 months, on the date the POW announcement was published.  

1945 Robert Cotterell is liberated from the German Camp.

Public military record found online.

1944 Mother Donna Cotterell is listed as living at 3710/12 Arbolada address on her voter registration this year. Seen on ancestry.com

1947

Donna LaRocca Cotterell files for divorce against Robert Morgan Cotterell.

Los Angeles Times September 16, 1947

1947 The Cotterell’s divorce is finalized.

Los Angeles Times Novemeber 6, 1947

Historic Context: Robert and Donna Cotterell were one couple out of thousands who made up a nation-wide spike in divorce rates after WW2.

Statistics show that in 1946 one in four US marriages ended in divorce.

A 1946 article written on the subject in the New York Times:

“More than half of America’s 1,500,000 war-wed G.I.s have returned. Already one out of every four of these 800,000 men is entangled in divorce proceedings. Experts are predicting that by 1950, 1,000,000 of these wartime marriages-or two out of three-will end in divorce.”

 Robert Cotterell remarried in approximately 1949 to Patricia Frick and the couple had two children in 1950 and 51.

 He had a job after the war working for Douglas Aircraft. The job took his family all over the San Fernando Valley and Laguna Beach.

I would imagine Robert paid alimony to Donna as was common at the time, as well as child support for Constance and Diana.