Displaying items by tag: Hollywood

Wednesday, 13 March 2024 21:03

The Venezuelan Volcano

Hollywood stars have a wide range of backgrounds. One star in particular has a connection to Montgomery County. Burnu Aquanetta, also known as the Venezuelan Volcano, was a rising star in the early 1940s. She originally told agents she was from Venezuela, hence the nickname Venezuela Volcano.

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Norristown Times Herald, October 17, 1942, HSMC Microfilm Collection

Aquanetta was a model in New York City when she was first discovered by a publicity agent. She also attracted the attention of columnist Elsa Maxwell at the El Morrocco night club. Maxwell helped to introduce Aquanetta to people in Hollywood.

When one agent asked to see her Venezuelan passport, Aquanetta admitted she had never been to Venezuela. She then claimed she was born in Wyoming and her parents, members of the Arapaho Tribe, died when she was young. She went on to claim she was adopted by another member of the tribe named Linda, but ultimately ran away when she was a teenager. Her story continued that she followed a gypsy camp until she finally ended up in New York.

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Norristown Times Herald, October 17, 1942, HSMC Microfilm Collection

There were also stories circulated at Universal Studios that Aquanetta was born in the West and adopted by New England artists Don and Ann Brothers. This story continued by saying she was a member of the Narragansett Tribe.

Ultimately, on October 17, 1942, an article in the Norristown Times Herald revealed Burnu Aquanetta's real name was Mildred Davenport. The article described her as "the girl who fooled Hollywood". She lived on Green Street in Norristown and graduated from Norristown High School in 1938. Some of you may remember a 2022 blog post I wrote about her brother, Judge Horace A. Davenport.

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Norristown Times Herald, October 17, 1942, HSMC Microfilm Collection

So why did she make up the stories about being Venezuelan and Native American? The most common explanation I found was that she wanted to work in Hollywood, but did not want to be turned away for being African American.

Published in Found in Collection