Monday, November 14, 2011

A LIFETIME OF PAIN: THE SHORT LIFE OF NEDRA SANDERS BROCCOLI

The name of Nedra Sanders Broccoli is not known much to anyone. Nedra only made a couple of movies despite her great beauty. However, in her short life she was associated not only with famous men of Hollywood but horrible personal tragedy that no one, famous or not, should ever have to deal with.

Nedra Sanders was born on February 28, 1919 in Missouri. She was the daughter of Ethyl Reeves and William J. Sanders. A local beauty, she married young. The marriage was not working out but she was the mother of a beautiful son by the name of Douglas. In 1941, Nedra decided to divorce her husband William Evans, and this first marriage would end in tragedy. On the night before William was to sign the divorce papers, he murdered the two year old Douglas, and Nedra's mother Ethyl who tried to intervene and stop the tragedy. Nedra was stabbed many times and almost died from a loss of blood. William Evans got life in prison, but Nedra lost her beloved son and mother. Her father never recovered from the incident, and he died in 1946.

While Nedra was recovering in the hospital, an up and coming crooner was visiting a friend in the hospital. He saw Nedra as she was recovering from her wounds - both physically and mentally. That singer was Buddy Clark. Clark sang with numerous big bands in the 1930s, and he was currently becoming one of the top singers for Columbia Records. He did not have the looks of Frank Sinatra or Bing Crosby, but Clark had a kind heart, and the two fell in love.


They were married in 1942, and although Buddy had two children from a previous married, the couple were anxious to start a family. In 1943, they had a daughter that they named Penny. Life was seemingly back on track for Nedra, and she put the horrors of her past behind her. However, new horror was around the corner. Buddy Clark was a huge college football fan - namely cheering on Stanford University. On October 1, 1949 he was a passenger on a small plane leaving the Stanford-Michigan game. After the game on the way back to Los Angeles, the plane developed a sputtering engine problem, due to lack of gas, and lost altitude and crashed on Beverly Boulevard, in California. Buddy was thrown from the plane. He did not survive the crash. At that time, he was 37 years old reaching new heights of popularity. Buddy died from his injuries at a hospital a few hours later.

The strange part of this freaky accident was that no one else on the plane was reported to have died, nor was there any one on Beverly Boulevard reported hurt. James L. Hayter, pilot of the chartered twin engine Cessnas plane who suffered chest injuries gave his explanation of the crash: He was attempting to land the plane at suburban Burbank, Ca., because of a low supply of fuel when it ran into overcast. When it emerged. He said, he didn’t know where he was. "I switched on the emergency fuel tank just before we got over Los Angeles." he said. "When she started sputtering I thought the fuel line might have been clogged, but later I figured we were out of gas. I just picked a spot and set her down."


The plane clipped branches from treetops and sheeredoff two power lines. Directly over Beverly Blvd., it lost its tailassembly and crashed. Four of the passengers were tossed clear of thewreckage by the impact. Despite the heavy traffic on the Beverly Blvd.,the California police regarded the crash a little short of a miracle that the plane landed on Beverly Blvd., without causing greater damage,and drivers below pulled to the curb upon seeing the plane over-head.

Nedra again had to pick up the pieces. Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby, both rivals to Clark helped out the family financially, and Sinatra even served as a pall bearer at Clark's funeral. However tragedy would once again face Nedra in 1950. Seven year old Penny Clark, the beloved daughter of Nedra and Buddy was killed months after Buddy died. She was crossing the street with her mother when a car veered out of control and hit Penny. Penny died instantly on August 14, 1950. So in less than a decade, Nedra lost her parents, two children, and a husband.


In 1952, Nedra married for the third time to up and coming producer Albert Broccoli. Broccoli would go on to develop the James Bond series in the 1960s that made him nearly a billionaire. At the time he met Nedra, he was just trying to form his own production company. The couple were told they had fertility problems and would never have children. They adopted a son, Tony Broccoli in 1954, after which Nedra became pregnant. While Nedra was pregnant doctors discovered she had incurable bladder cancer. Their daughter Tina was born in 1956, but Nedra would only live a few years after the birth.

Nedra Sanders Broccoli died on September 12, 1958. She was only 39 but lived a lifetime of tragedy, heart ache, and pain...

22 comments:

  1. I hope that the happy moments in Nedra's life were as intense as the tragic ones.

    Buddy Clark had the friendliest voice on record, and it seems his soul was the same.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I actually was looking into doing more of a story on Buddy Clark - one of my favorite singers, but I uncovered more about Nedra. It is amazing what challenges we face in life - many of us are strong enough to overcome.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I have never heard of this woman, but, wow, her story is horribly tragic and heartbreaking!!

    ReplyDelete
  4. I learned about her from reading about Buddy Clark - very sad.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Wow....that is just 'off the charts' tragic! As was said before, I hope her happiest days burned as bright as her lows were low. Hard to imagine, though. In weird Hollywood 'trivia/degrees of separation', Broccolli had some sort of connection to the violent death of Ted Healy. a rumor has persisted for years that Broccolli beat him to death.
    Thanks for the info, glad I stumbled on it. May she rest in peace.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm sure Tina will appreciate the kind words regarding her Mother. As for the later, I don't see how that belongs on this thread. You really shouldn't believe any negative gossip regarding her Father. Personally I've only heard one person say a bad word about him, and that person hasn't got a good word to say about anyone. PS

      Delete
    2. I'm sure Tina will appreciate the kind words regarding her Mother. As for the later, I don't see how that belongs on this thread. You really shouldn't believe any negative gossip regarding her Father. Personally I've only heard one person say a bad word about him, and that person hasn't got a good word to say about anyone. PS

      Delete
  6. Wow, I never knew of the tie between Ted Healy and Albert Broccolli. I will have to check that out. Very interesting!

    ReplyDelete
  7. I was born in 1956 and my mother Nedra died when I was 2 and a half years old. My father did not beat Ted Healy to death!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Hi Tina,
    Thanks for the comment. I will make the date correction to the story. Thanks. It seemed like your Mom and Dad were very happy together - for the short time they had.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Thanks for making me a year younger, but I was born (and adopted) in April 1954. I've heard the Ted Healy story before, and as my sister said, not true. Some of my earliest memories (I was 4) are of visiting my mother in the hospital where she was dying. I was too young to know what was going on...

    ReplyDelete
  10. I'll make that correction. Thanks for replying. I am a fan of Buddy Clark so I wanted to do research from that angle, but your mother's story was so fascinating. She seemed like a beautiful. I hope my article did her justice.

    I have heard that Ted Healy story too before and from all accounts I researched he was beat up - but not by your dad. It is one of those urban legend stories.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Nedra was born in Steelville, MO. We've got a display of her life set up at the Soda Fountain on Main Street, along with various Coca-Cola adverts featuring her lovely face.

    ReplyDelete
  12. In a day to day process, I talk of our beloved Coca Cola gal, Nedra to every new comer to The Fountain in Steelville, MO. She is what I would call the Star of the Soda Fountain, established 1905. Over and over everyone reacts in the same way how sad and how beautiful she was. Though the tragedy is not a positive attribute, Nedra should be remembered as who she was, Beautiful and a Loving wife and mother. It is my hope to keep the beauty alive in the gracious manner she lived her life. I have had maybe one or two come in from the past that have had some kind of connection, but they know very little. Thank you for your story and I have linked many to this site. It would be so wonderful if I could meet her children....maybe someday I will see you walk through the door of The Fountain. If you see this reply, feel free to contact me thefountain1930@gmail.com or 1573-775-2800.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And the story still lives. Lives touched by the tragedy, but touched by the remembrance of her. Her life is a legend, her beauty the awe and her love is what touches the people who walk through our doors, still here at the Soda Fountain (www.thesodafountain.us). I have had veteran historians thanking me for keeping the history alive, but better yet giving away the love of one lady such as Nedra.

      Delete
  13. Life can sure be a bitch! God bless nedra!

    ReplyDelete
  14. I wish there was an explanation under the photo of the bodies on the ground, it's strange. Any details ? Who was laying there ? In what order ?
    I realize they were in that plane, they were the victims I suppose -

    I'd read elsewhere that Buddy and everyone else except the pilots burned to death in the plane. Maybe the photo proves that wrong, except the photo didn't identify exactly who was laying there on the ground.

    Nedra's life was a nightmare. I'd sure like to get a look at her astrology. I study astrology and with a life like that Ill bet her natal chart is a real chill to look at.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Hello,

    Everyone survived the crash but Buddy Clark. He was the only one not wearing a seatbelt. He survived the initial crash but died shortly after of internal injuries.

    ReplyDelete
  16. This was an awesome story and I thank you for sharing all of this with us. I live in Steelville and have for the past 38 years and never knew this story. The soda fountain has always been hit. When we were in school I can remember going there every morning to wait for the bus and we would have chocolate comes. Thank you again.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Maggie, UK
    I came across this article by accident looking for memories of my past. I remember Nedra, Tony and Tina. I worked for Cubby as his secretary at Warwick Productions for three years and met Nedra and the young (at that time!) children at their flat in Mayfair, London. Nedra was a lovely lady in spite of being in great pain - I thought a lot of her. I left Warwick when Cubby returned to USA - I still have the silver dollar he gave me when I told him I was getting married. Memories are good. thank you for them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Miss Maggie, I currently live in Steelville where Nedra was born. I commented above in 2013. I was wondering if Nedra ever spoke of her life here in Steelville. I've been researching her life and can't seem to find anything of her life here. I run the restored Old Fashioned Soda Fountain where I capture her life and story everyday as part of the History of Steelville. Could you email me with anything you can recall of her? Thank you very much! Miss Paula :-)

      Delete
  18. Regarding the crash scene photo, the body shown in the foreground is Buddy Clark.

    ReplyDelete