Sondra Farrell, the daughter of Samuel Bazrod, pharmacist at Schwab’s Drugstore, and who later became an actress, writer and producer, has died from COVID-19, Marilyn Remembered reports.
Sondra was born in Pittsburgh and moved to Los Angeles as a child, where her father worked as a pharmacist at Schwab’s Drugstore. Her mother, a former dancer and pianist, became paraplegic when Sondra was just ten years old. And so Sondra quickly learned to be independent and care for her mother, whom she would credit for encouraging her interest in the arts and to develop her creativity.
Schwab’s flagship store on Sunset Boulevard also served ice-cream and light meals, and became a popular hangout for Hollywood hopefuls including the young Marilyn Monroe, who was interviewed there by columnist Sidney Skolsky in 1949 (he kept an office above the pharmacy.) In 2013, Sondra shared her memories with Tina Faye for the Original Van Gogh’s Ear Anthology e-zine.
“Is it true your father was one of Marilyn Monroe’s favorite pharmacists? What was he like?
It is true that Marilyn liked my father very much and, before she was a star and so famous, she would come into the drugstore and talk with him and ask him questions about drugs and his recommendations about vitamins. Eventually she would have her prescriptions delivered but still talked with my father on the phone. My father was very handsome and had a very good personality and many other stars and regular people confided in him, because they knew he would not repeat what they told him.”
While still in high school, Sondra appeared on TV’s You Bet Your Life, reciting lines from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet to presenter Groucho Marx. At sixteen, she played an uncredited bit part in Meet Danny Wilson (1952), starring Frank Sinatra and Shelley Winters; and appeared in The Ring, featuring a young Rita Moreno. She was even offered a contract with RKO mogul Howard Hughes, but her father advised her to turn it down. This was probably a wise decision, as the eccentric Hughes was notorious for keeping a stable of pretty starlets in apartments across the city. She also had a screen test at Twentieth Century Fox, where Allan ‘Whitey’ Snyder – make-up artist to Marilyn Monroe – praised her looks and supported her long-held desire to pursue acting.
Sondra also played a small role opposite Marilyn in Monkey Business (1952) which was later cut, but she can be seen in still photos of the scene.
“What was it like to share a scene with Marilyn Monroe and Cary Grant?
Marilyn seemed somewhat shy and didn’t talk much during the breaks during shooting and in the scene we were in with Cary Grant which was inside a record store she spent a long time running her hands up and down a window of a door that was part of the inside of the record store. Cary Grant was charming and played a piano that was nearby and sang and danced for us. He started his career in England as a song and dance man.
What was Marilyn like as a person? How do you think Marilyn the person differed most from Marilyn the star? What do you think she would think of the Hollywood scene of today?
Unless Marilyn knew the people she was with very well she did seem shy but really very sweet. However, she was certainly able to perform when necessary. I think Marilyn would not have liked anything about the Hollywood scene of today. She would have been hounded every minute by the paparazzi.”
At nineteen, Sondra left movies behind to marry and have children, although she continued acting in the theatre. Meanwhile, in 1962 the world was shocked by the news that Marilyn Monroe had died from an overdose of sleeping pills. On the 50th anniversary of her passing, Sondra spoke with LA Weekly about the star’s long association with Schwab’s.
“Soon after news of Marilyn Monroe’s death spread around the world, my father received the call from the coroner’s office in Los Angeles. ‘How many pills did you send to Marilyn Monroe’s house?’
My father, Samuel Bazrod, known by store regulars as ‘Good Sam,’ was the right person to get the call and answer the question. He was chief pharmacist at the legendary Schwab’s Drugstore on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood and had, in fact, filled Marilyn’s doctor’s usual prescription for sleeping pills shortly before her death. It was those pills she took the night she died.
When my father came home from work, he told my mother and me about the call. The pills were Nembutal and chloral hydrate, which is what he usually sent to Marilyn.
That was not news to us because my father often complained that Marilyn’s regular doctor [Hyman Engelberg, her physician] would prescribe too many of these same pills at one time for a person who had suicidal tendencies. My father’s good friend, Dr. Ralph Greenson, was Marilyn’s psychiatrist, and he often told my father about his opposition to the number of pills Marilyn received at each refill of her usual prescription.”
By 1966 Sondra was divorced, and a chance encounter with film director Blake Edwards while visiting her father at Schwab’s led to a minor role as a Sicilian prostitute in What Did You Do in the War, Daddy? Her make-up artist was an old friend, Allan ‘Whitey’ Snyder. Sondra continued working in television and onstage until 1980, when she began a second career in journalism at KFI Radio and the Los Angeles Times.
She was also a segment producer on NBC’s Real People from 1979-84, and went on to write One-Minute Superstars, a book based on her experiences. In 1995 she produced a television documentary, The Hunt for Amazing Treasures, later writing a book of the same name.
In 1986, Sondra made a brief acting comeback in the sci-flick, Land of Doom; and in recent years, she produced and starred in a YouTube series, The Nurse Exorcist. Sondra was also a friend of Marilyn Remembered, and a regular guest speaker at the Los Angeles fan club’s annual services for Marilyn at Westwood Memorial Park.