Dawn Bender (born February 21, 1935) is an American film, stage, and radio actress, most famous for the role of Margaret on theradio drama One Man's Family and Betty Morgan in Teenagers from Outer Space.
Early life and career
Bender was born in Glendale, California. She landed her first role as an infant playing the role of baby Lisa in Joe May's 1937 film Confession, where she was featured alongside such greats as Basil Rathbone, Ian Hunter and "box-office poison" Kay Francis.
At age of 7, Bender was cast as little Margaret Herbert in the popular radio drama One Man's Family. The role would make her a household name, and she would continue to portray the role of Margaret for 17 years, through the series' conclusion in 1959. A member of the "500 Club", composed of child actors who had appeared in at least 500 radio shows, she was also featured in a number of films, including Till We Meet Again (1944), A Song to Remember (1945), George Sanders caper The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry(1945), Suspense (1946), and John Wayne drama Island in the Sky (1953). She also appeared in a number of stage plays throughout the Los Angeles area, and had cameos on more than a dozen radio dramas.
On June 26, 1953, Bender married fellow Pasadena City College student and future Gunsmoke actor Warren Vanders (né VanderSchuit); she was only 18 at the time. The couple went their separate ways by spring of 1955, after they had both transferred to Pepperdine University.
Later career & retirement
In 1953, Bender had a supporting role in Ruth Gordon's semi-autobiographical film The Actress, based on her novel Years Ago. The film was directed by hard-hitting George Cukor, and starred heavyweights Spencer Tracy, Jean Simmons, and young Anthony Perkins. By 1955, Dawn was ready to settle down again, this time with Jerry Anderson, another drama student at Pepperdine; they went on to have two children during their marriage.
Dawn Bender rehearses for One Man's Family
, circa 1945.
Despite her career's upswing and her status as an up-and-coming ingenue, Dawn was tiring of the acting scene, and prepared to retire to married life. In 1956, she was recruited by a friend of a friend to act in Tom Graeff's second feature Teenagers from Outer Space. Finally cast in a leading role, Dawn would play Betty Morgan, a headstrong girl who helps a rebel alien save earth from imminent destruction. She's credited in the film under the name "Dawn Anderson", using her married name to avoid strict SAG rules. (Another actor onTeenagers, King Moody, did not fare so well — in 1962 he and four other SAG actors were fined by the guild for working below pay scale.)
The film debuted in 1959 but by then, Bender's career was winding down. She starred in her last play, André Gide's The Immoralist in 1962, and retired shortly after.
She earned a teaching degree from Loyola Marymount University in the 1970s, and eventually went on to become a schoolteacher in Los Angeles county, where she taught for almost 40 years. She has since retired and still lives in the Los Angeles area with her third husband of many decades, retired Loyola professor Emmett Jacobs.
Rumors and speculation
For many years it was erroneously reported that Dawn Bender had died of alcohol-related complications in the early-1970s. This rumor probably came about because of a death from those causes of a different Dawn Bender, which occurred around the time that Ms. Bender retired from acting. This rumor was repeated in publications and articles aboutTeenagers from Outer Space until 2006, when a biographer located her for an interview.