Lora Lee Michel was a child actress who rose to fame in the late 1940s, appearing in several movies with Hollywood legends like Humphrey Bogart, Gary Cooper, and Olivia de Havilland. She was hailed as the next Shirley Temple, and had a promising career ahead of her. But her life took a dark turn when she was involved in a custody battle, a car theft, and a prison sentence. She disappeared from the public eye, and her fate remains unknown. In this article, we will explore the life and death of Lora Lee Michel, and the unsolved mystery that surrounds her.
A Star is Born
Lora Lee Michel was born in La Grange, Texas, on September 13, 1940, to Willie Walker Willeford and Lena Smith Brunson. She was given up for adoption when she was five years old, and was adopted by Otto and Lorraine Michel in Schulenburg, Texas. She showed a talent for acting and singing, and her adoptive mother took her to Hollywood in 1946, hoping to make her a star. She soon caught the attention of directors and producers, and landed roles in several films, such as Good Sam, Tokyo Joe, The Snake Pit, and The Big Cat. She was praised for her natural and charming performance, and earned $100 a day (equivalent to $1,200 in 2022). She was also featured in magazines and radio shows, and had a large fan base.
A Family Feud
However, behind the scenes, Lora Lee’s life was not so glamorous. She claimed that her adoptive mother was abusive and controlling, and that she starved and beat her to keep her slim and young. In 1950, she told her drama coach and agent, Ona Wargin, about her situation, and Wargin took her to the police. Lora Lee’s adoptive mother was arrested on abuse charges, and Lora Lee was placed in foster care. Her biological mother, Lena Brunson, who had seen the news, filed a lawsuit to regain custody of her daughter. A sensational trial ensued, which involved a fist fight between the two mothers, conflicting testimonies, and media frenzy. The judge ruled that the adoption was legal, and ordered Lora Lee to return to Texas with her adoptive parents, and to quit acting.
A Troubled Life
Lora Lee’s career came to an abrupt end, and she faded from the spotlight. She lived in various foster homes after her adoptive parents died, and became pregnant at 17. She married four times, but none of her marriages lasted long. She also had problems with the law, and was arrested for stealing a car with her fourth husband, Frank O’Neil Scot, in 1963. They were both sentenced to three years in federal prison, but were released after 18 months. After that, Lora Lee vanished from the public eye, and no one knew what happened to her.
A Mysterious Death
According to some sources, Lora Lee died of cancer in 1979, at the age of 39. This information was based on notes kept by her second husband, Joe Wendel Owen, who had tried to find her several times. However, there is no official confirmation or record of her death, and her whereabouts and grave are unknown. Her sister, Barbara Michel Wright, who had lost contact with her, also tried to locate her, but to no avail. She hired a private investigator, who found no trace of her. She also contacted the LA Times, who published an article about Lora Lee’s story in 2022, hoping to get some answers. But the mystery remains unsolved, and Lora Lee’s fate is still a mystery.
Lora Lee Michel was a talented and beautiful actress, who had a bright future ahead of her. But her life was marred by tragedy and turmoil, and she disappeared from the world. Her cause of death is still a mystery, but her life and work are not forgotten. She was Lora Lee Michel, and she will be missed.