Gale Storm was a popular actress and singer who starred in two hit television shows in the 1950s, My Little Margie and The Gale Storm Show. She also had a successful recording career, with several songs reaching the top ten on the Billboard charts. But behind her cheerful and charming persona, Storm struggled with a serious addiction to alcohol that threatened to ruin her life and career. How did she overcome her demons and what was her cause of death?
Early Life and Career
Storm was born Josephine Owaissa Cottle on April 5, 1922, in Bloomington, Texas. She was the youngest of five children and lost her father when she was only 17 months old. Her mother worked hard to support the family by sewing and running a millinery shop. Storm showed an early talent for dancing and ice skating, and also performed in school plays.
In 1940, when she was 18, she entered a talent contest for a radio show called Gateway to Hollywood. She won the contest and was awarded a one-year contract with a movie studio. She also met her future husband, Lee Bonnell, who was the male winner of the contest. They married in 1941 and had four children together.
Storm adopted the stage name Gale Storm and appeared in several low-budget films for RKO, Monogram, and Universal studios. She worked with actors such as Jackie Cooper, Freddie Bartholomew, Eddie Albert, Audie Murphy, George Montgomery, and Roy Rogers. She also sang in some of her films and in soundies, short musical films for jukeboxes.
Television Stardom and Singing Success
In 1952, Storm made her television debut in My Little Margie, a sitcom that aired on CBS and NBC. She played Margie Albright, a young woman who often got into trouble while trying to help her widowed father, played by Charles Farrell. The show was a hit with audiences and ran for four seasons and 126 episodes.
In 1956, Storm returned to television with The Gale Storm Show, also known as Oh! Susanna. She played Susanna Pomeroy, a social director on a luxury cruise ship who had various adventures and mishaps. The show also featured her singing talents and ran for four seasons and 143 episodes.
Storm also launched a successful career as a singer, performing in nightclubs and releasing records. Several of her songs made the Billboard charts, including “I Hear You Knocking,” “Memories Are Made of This,” “Ivory Tower,” “Dark Moon” and a cover of “Why Do Fools Fall in Love.”
Alcoholism and Recovery
Despite her fame and fortune, Storm was unhappy and insecure. She suffered from anxiety, depression, insomnia, and chronic pain. She also felt pressured to maintain her image as a wholesome and cheerful star. She turned to alcohol as a way to cope with her problems and soon became addicted.
Her drinking affected her personal and professional life. She had frequent arguments with her husband, who also drank heavily. She also had trouble remembering her lines and performing on stage. She lost weight and looked gaunt and unhealthy.
Storm realized she had a problem and sought help from various doctors, psychiatrists, and clinics. But none of them could cure her addiction or address the underlying causes of it. She tried to quit drinking several times but always relapsed.
In 1979, after nearly four decades of alcoholism, Storm finally found the help she needed at Raleigh Hills Hospital, an alcohol treatment center in California. There she received counseling, therapy, medication, and support from other recovering alcoholics. She also rediscovered her faith in God and prayed for strength.
Storm successfully completed the treatment program and stayed sober for the rest of her life. She became a spokesperson for Raleigh Hills Hospital and shared her story with others who were struggling with alcoholism. She also wrote an autobiography titled I Ain’t Down Yet (1981), in which she candidly revealed her battle with alcoholism as well as her years in Hollywood.
Later Years and Death
After overcoming her addiction, Storm resumed her career as an actress and singer. She appeared in several television shows, such as Burke’s Law, The Love Boat, and Murder, She Wrote. She also starred in musicals such as The Unsinkable Molly Brown (as the title character), South Pacific ,and Finian’s Rainbow.
Storm remained married to Bonnell until his death in 1986. They had been married for 45 years and had four children: Peter (who died in 2007), Phillip (who died in 2008), Paul (who died in 2014), and Susanna (who is still alive). Storm remarried in 1988 to Paul Masterson, who died in 1996.
Storm died on June 27, 2009, at a convalescent hospital in Danville, California. She was 87 years old. The cause of death was not disclosed, but she had been in failing health for several years. She was survived by her daughter, three grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.
Storm was remembered as a talented and versatile performer who brought joy and laughter to millions of fans. She was also praised for her courage and honesty in overcoming her alcoholism and helping others do the same. She was a true survivor who lived up to the title of her autobiography: I Ain’t Down Yet.