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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Helen Walker
Helen Walker 1940s portrait.jpg
Walker c. 1940s
Born(1920-07-17)July 17, 1920
DiedMarch 10, 1968(1968-03-10) (aged 47)
Resting placeOak Hill Cemetery, Sterling, Massachusetts, U.S.
OccupationActress
Years active1942–1960
Spouse(s)
Edward DuDomaine
(m. 1950; div. 1952)

(m. 1942; div. 1946)

Helen Marion Walker (July 17, 1920 – March 10, 1968) was an American actress.[1]

Biography

1920–1940: Early life

Helen Marion Walker was born July 17, 1920 in Worcester, Massachusetts, the daughter of Irish-American parents.[2] According to Walker, she grew up "quite poor."[2] Her father, who managed a grocery store, died when she was six years old, after which she and her two sisters went to live on a farm in Upton, Massachusetts.[2] Her mother took a job working in a department store but later had a nervous breakdown.[3]

Walker's initial acting experience came in high school, performing in school plays.[2] Walker won a scholarship to the Erskine School of Dramatics in Boston, which she enrolled in after high school.[2] She completed one semester of studies, but subsequently dropped out after completing her first play, embarrassed by her performance which she believed to be poor.[2]

1941–1946: Career beginnings and film

After dropping out of the Erskine School of Dramatics, Walker began to appear in local stock theater.[4] On Broadway, she portrayed Lisa Otis in Jason (1942).[5]

Walker made her film debut in 1942. She earned a solid reputation playing leading roles in comedies – a "reactress" to comic leads, as she described it.[6]

Walker's film debut came in 1942's Lucky Jordan, a comedy about a gangster (Alan Ladd) who ends up drafted in the Army, where Walker's character reports him AWOL. The same year, Walker married Paramount studio lawyer Robert Blumofe on November 19, 1942, in Tijuana, Mexico.[7] In the farce Brewster's Millions, her sweetheart inherits $8 million, but can't keep it unless he can spend a million of it within a specified time. Walker also played the romantic interest of Fred MacMurray in the popular comedy Murder, He Says in 1945.

According to Yvonne de Carlo, Walker, "the good natured but tough talking starlet," took Gail Russell "under her wing and introduced her to the tranquilizing benefits of vodka" when they were Paramount contractees together.[8] Russell subsequently became an alcoholic. Walker divorced her husband, Blumofe, in 1946.

1947–1955: Auto accident and career decline

Walker had just finished filming what would become her most well-known feature, 1947's Nightmare Alley, and was filming Heaven Only Knows[1] when an auto accident drastically disrupted her career: On December 31, 1946,[2] while driving the car of director Bruce "Lucky" Humberstone from Palm Springs to Hollywood, she gave a ride to three hitchhikers: a soldier named Robert E. Lee, 18-year-old student Philip Mercado, and Mercado's friend Joseph Montaldo.[9] Near Redlands, California, the car hit a divider and flipped over, killing Lee and causing serious injuries to Walker and the other two passengers.[10] Mercado brought a civil suit for $150,000 against Walker.[11] Montaldo sued for $100,000.26 Mar 1947, Page 12 - The San Bernardino County Sun at Newspapers.com Walker was also charged with manslaughter for Lee's death.

The cases crumbled due to several factors. Walker's attorney was able to block assertions that she was driving intoxicated. The two plaintiffs were arrested on unrelated charges. Mercado was fingered as a suspect in an armed robbery and arrested. Montaldo admitted to a 1944 narcotics charge and was arrested.

Her criminal trial for manslaughter ended with a dismissal on the motion of San Bernardino County District Attorney Jerome B. Kavanaugh.[12]

In 1950, Walker married department store executive Edward DuDomaine, but the marriage lasted only two years, ending in divorce in 1952.[1]

Walker made her final big-screen appearance in Joseph H. Lewis's film noir The Big Combo in 1955. She retired from acting at the age of 35.

1956–1968: Retirement from acting

In 1960, after her house burned down, several other actresses in the Hollywood community held a benefit to assist her.[1]

Death

Walker died of cancer on March 10, 1968 in the North Hollywood section of Los Angeles, California, aged 47.[4][13]

Political views

A Democrat, she supported Adlai Stevenson's campaign during the 1952 presidential election.[14]

Filmography

Film

Year Title Role Notes
1942 Lucky Jordan Jill Evans
1943 The Good Fellows Ethel Hilton
1944 Abroad with Two Yanks Joyce Stuart
1945 The Man in Half Moon Street Eve Brandon
1945 Brewster's Millions Peggy Gray
1945 Murder, He Says Claire Matthews
1945 Duffy's Tavern Helen Walker
1946 People Are Funny Corey Sullivan
1946 Murder in the Music Hall Millicent
1946 Cluny Brown Elizabeth 'Betty' Cream
1946 Her Adventurous Night Constance Fry
1947 The Homestretch Kitty Brant
1947 Nightmare Alley Lilith Ritter
1948 Call Northside 777 Laura McNeal
1949 My Dear Secretary Elsie
1949 Impact Irene Williams
1951 My True Story Ann Martin
1953 Problem Girls Miss Dixon
1955 The Big Combo Alicia Brown

Television

Year Title Role Notes
1956 Dragnet 1 episode
1957 The 20th Century-Fox Hour Shirley Larkin 1 episode
1960 Lock-Up Janice Horton / Margaret Benedict 2 episodes, (final appearance)

References

  1. ^ a b c d Obituary Variety, March 13, 1968, page 79.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Wagner 2020, p. 183.
  3. ^ Wagner 2020, pp. 183–184.
  4. ^ a b "Helen Walker, 47, Dies on Coast; Fdm Actress in '40's and '50's". The New York Times. Associated Press. March 12, 1968. p. 43. ProQuest 118202685. Retrieved January 18, 2021 – via ProQuest.
  5. ^ "Helen Walker". Internet Broadway Database. The Broadway League. Retrieved January 18, 2021.
  6. ^ Scheuer, Philip K. (4 Nov 1945). "Helen Walker Clings to Ideals: Recruit From Stage Confidently Waits for 'Grown-up' Parts Stage Recruit Holds Fast to Her Ideals Helen Walker Sure She'll Be Assigned 'Grown-up' Parts". Los Angeles Times. p. B1.
  7. ^ Wagner 2020, p. 185.
  8. ^ De Carlo, Yvonne; Warren, Doug (1987). Yvonne : an autobiography. St Martins Press. p. 72.
  9. ^ Wagner 2020, p. 186.
  10. ^ Wagner 2020, pp. 186–188.
  11. ^ "Hitchhiker Seeks Damages From Helen Walker", Los Angeles Times, March 6, 1947.
  12. ^ "Helen Walker Cleared in Hitchhiker's Death" Los Angeles Times, April 9, 1947.
  13. ^ ""Film Actress Helen Walker Dies of Cancer"". Chicago Tribune. Mar 12, 1968. p. 43.
  14. ^ Motion Picture and Television Magazine, November 1952, page 33, Ideal Publishers

Sources

  • Wagner, Laura (2020). Hollywood's Hard-Luck Ladies: 23 Actresses Who Suffered Early Deaths, Accidents, Missteps, Illnesses and Tragedies. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland. ISBN 978-1-4766-3833-1.

External links

This page was last edited on 28 May 2021, at 22:20
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