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TV sitcom pioneer Gale Storm dies

  • Story Highlights
  • Her first TV show , "My Little Margie," set the sitcom stage with Lucille Ball
  • Gale Storm was born Josephine Owaissa Cottle in Bloomington, Texas
  • Storm has three Hollywood Walk of Fame stars for recording, radio and television
By Alan Duke
CNN
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LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- Gale Storm, whose acting and singing talents earned her three stars on Hollywood's Walk of Fame, died Saturday, according to a Danville, California nursing facility where she was a patient.

Storm was 87.

Storm got her first movie contract, a stage name and a husband when she won a radio talent show in Hollywood at the age of 17.

Her first TV show -- "My Little Margie" -- set the sitcom stage with Lucille Ball and other female stars in the 1950s, said Skip E. Lowe, a longtime friend who acted in some of Storm's first movies in the early 1940s.

"She was a wonderful singer," said Lowe. "She started as a singer and became known as an actress and singer."

Born Josephine Owaissa Cottle in Bloomington, Texas, in 1922, she entered and won a CBS Radio talent show that offered a grand prize of a one-year movie contract with RKO Studio, according to her personal biography.

She teamed up with the male winner, Lee Bonnell, whom she married and had four children with. The couple remained married for 45 years until his death in 1986.

"We fell deeply in love and were married two years later, just as soon as my mother would allow it!" she wrote.

The new name Gale Storm was also part of the prize, she said.

Lowe, who interviewed her several times in recent decades on his cable TV show, said Storm was open about her bout with alcoholism.

"She was battling that bottle," Lowe said.

Storm wrote about her alcoholism on her official Web site:

"My successes have certainly not been without problems. During the 1970s I experienced a terribly low and painful time of dealing with alcoholism. I had Lee's unfailing support through the entire ordeal. My treatment and recovery were more than rugged."

Storm said she was "fully recovered for more than 20 years."

She also chronicled her alcoholism battle in an autobiography published in 1980 and titled "I Ain't Down Yet."

Her work in movies in the 1940s when she starred in dozens of B-movies -- mostly Westerns -- was great preparation when television became big in the early 1950s, she said.

Her first TV series, "My Little Margie" was a radio show transferred to TV as a summer replacement for "I Love Lucy" in 1952. "I was overwhelmed by the immediate success of it," she said. "During the next four years, millions of people saw the 126 episodes of 'Margie' on TV and listened to separate, live episodes on network radio," Storm said.

Her next sitcom was "The Gale Storm Show: Oh! Susanna," airing from 1956 until 1960. Storm played the social director on a cruise ship.

Along with film, radio and TV, Storm recorded several top-10 pop hits for Dot Records in the 1950s.

"I was thrilled when my very first record, 'I Hear You Knockin' ,' sold over a million copies and won for me the coveted 'gold' record," she wrote. "After that, my hit records included 'Dark Moon,' 'Ivory Tower,' 'Teen Age Prayer,' and 'Memories Are Made Of This .'"

Her three Hollywood Walk of Fame stars are for recording, radio and television, according to the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce.

She acted in a few TV episodes in the 1980s, including "The Love Boat" and "Murder She Wrote."

Storm married Paul Masterson in 1988 after Bonnell died. Her second husband died in 1996.

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