Southern Oregon became a getaway for Hollywood stars during the 1950’s, many drawn by the fishing on the Rogue River. They often stayed at Ginger Rogers’s ranch west of Medford, including Mario Lanza, the Hollywood tenor who starred in the 1951 hit movie “The Great Caruso.”
While visiting Southern Oregon to lose weight for movie roles, Lanza also relaxed with his family, fished, and rode horses. Lanza’s colorful personality and controversial career attracted gossip columnists, even Rogue Valley ones. A Medford columnist reported that Lanza had purchased a ranch in Shady Cove and encouraged him to raise chickens and boost Oregon’s poultry production.
Hedda Hopper wrote in her famed Hollywood gossip column about a trip Lanza made to a dentist in Eagle Point, Ore., to see about an infected tooth. Hopper said Lanza, disappointed that the dentist failed to recognize him, grumbled, “At least he might have recognized my tonsils.”
Lanza died in 1959 at the age of 38, but for a while Southern Oregon was part of a Hollywood legend. His movies and recordings made him one of the most popular stars of his day.
Sources: "Another Star in the Rogue Galaxy." Mail Tribune [Medford, Ore.). 21 Sept. 1951; "Magazine's Pictures of Singer Mario Lanza Again Feature Valley." Ibid. 20 Feb. 1952, p. 4. "Movie Life Article Tells of Visit Here by Singing Star." Ibid. Medford Mail Tribune, 10 Feb. 1952, p. 5.