Helen Gilbert (actress)

Helen Amelia Gilbert (July 4, 1915 - October 23, 1995)[1] was a film actress and musician.

Helen Gilbert
Helen Gilbert Cine M408.jpg
Helen Amelia Gilbert

July 4, 1915
DiedOctober 23, 1995
Spouse(s)Mischa Bakaleinikoff (? - 1939, divorce)
Seymour J. Chotiner (? - 1942, divorce)
Johnny Stompanato (1949 - 1949, divorce)
James E. Durant (1949 - ?)
M.O. Bryant (? - ?)
Bill Marshallt (? - ?)
Victor Makzoumet (? - ?)

Early yearsEdit

Gilbert was born in Pennsylvania and was raised in Warren, Ohio.[1] By the time she was 10, she and her family lived in Superior, Wisconsin, where her father ran a music store. Her father gave her a cello when she was 10, and "By the time she was 15, she was known in the northwest as a cello prodigy."[2] Her talent with that instrument earned her a scholarship to the Curtis Institute of Music and an opportunity to play at the Hollywood Bowl.[3]


Gilbert was described in a May 22, 1939, syndicated newspaper column as "The only studio musician who ever became an actress."[4] Writer Paul Harrison explained that Gilbert had been playing cello in the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer orchestra for two years when test director Fred M. Wilcox saw her "and asked why she was behind the camera instead of in front of it."[4] (Two other newspaper articles, published August 6, 1939, and April 21, 1939, contained similar anecdotes, but in them W. S. Van Dyke was the director who noticed Gilbert playing cello.[5][2] A fourth article, published February 18, 1940, says that film executive Winfield Sheehan "was impressed by her beauty, gave her a screen test and started her on her way to pictures.")[3]

Gilbert's film debut came in Andy Hardy Gets Spring Fever (1939). when she played Andy Hardy's dramatics teacher.[5] That same year, she was featured as a patient who had trouble with her vision in The Secret of Dr. Kildare (1939).[6]

Gilbert's romantic proclivities may have cost her a role in The Wizard of Oz (1939). Eila Mell wrote in the book Casting Might-Have-Beens: A Film by Film Directory of Actors Considered for Roles Given to Others: "Helen Gilbert was the first choice to play Glinda the Good Witch. The actress was interested and it seemed the deal would be made. After she ran off with Howard Hughes, the role was up for grabs."[7] Her activities with Hughes may have cost Gilbert more than that one film role. An article by Lou Lumenick on the website of the New York Post quotes from David J. Hogan’s book, The Wizard of Oz FAQ: “Shortly after a young MGM contract player named Helen Gilbert was cast as Glinda, the inveterate girl-chaser Howard Hughes spirited her away for a fling … Gilbert was suspended, and the studio, which had been building her as a leading lady, allowed her contract to lapse after 1940.”[8]

Personal lifeEdit

Gilbert's first husband was orchestra leader Mischa Bakaleinikoff.[2] They divorced November 18, 1939.[9] On December 8, 1942, she was divorced by Seymour J. Chotiner, an attorney in Hollywood, California. They had been married five months.[10] On February 19, 1949, she married Johnny Stompanato.[11] They divorced in July 1949.[12]

Her sixth husband was Nevada casino manager James E. Durant. They married on September 28, 1949, in Las Vegas, Nevada.[13] In June 1952, she went to court, asking for monthly alimony and a restraining order against Durant, alleging that he attempted to throw her out of an 11th floor window. Durant, meanwhile, claimed that the couple had been divorced already.[14] Gilbert maintained that the decree in Arizona was invalid, but she dropped her suit after marrying M.O. Bryant,[15] who was "associated with her in a Hollywood cafe."[16]

She was also married to actor Bill Marshall and restaurateur Victor Makzoume.[17]


Gilbert died of cardiac arrest in Los Angeles on October 23, 1995, at age 80. Her body was cremated, and her ashes were scattered at sea.[1]


  1. ^ a b c Wilson, Scott (2016). Resting Places: The Burial Sites of More Than 14,000 Famous Persons, 3d ed. (2 volume set). McFarland. p. 279. ISBN 9780786479924. Retrieved 10 October 2016.
  2. ^ a b c Othman, Frederick C. (April 21, 1939). "Hollywood Day By Day". The Danville Morning News. Pennsylvania, Danville. United Press. p. 2. Retrieved October 10, 2016 – via Newspapers.com.  
  3. ^ a b Tildesley, Alice L. (February 18, 1940). "What Makes a Movie Star?". The Nebraska State Journal. Nebraska, Lincoln. p. 39.
  4. ^ a b Harrison, Paul (May 22, 1939). "Harrison Turns Hollywood Spotlight On Three New Faces Facing Cameras". Ogden Standard-Examiner. Utah, Ogden. Newspaper Enterprise Association. p. 8. Retrieved October 10, 2016 – via Newspapers.com.  
  5. ^ a b "New Cinderella". The Brooklyn Daily Eagle. New York, Brooklyn. August 6, 1939. p. 32. Retrieved October 10, 2016 – via Newspapers.com.  
  6. ^ "Third of 'Kildare' Films Opens Here". Oakland Tribune. California, Oakland. December 28, 1939. p. 18. Retrieved October 10, 2016 – via Newspapers.com.  
  7. ^ Mell, Eila (2005). Casting Might-Have-Beens: A Film by Film Directory of Actors Considered for Roles Given to Others. McFarland. p. 257. ISBN 9780786420179. Retrieved 12 October 2016.
  8. ^ Lumenick, Lou (August 12, 2014). "Starlet lost 'The Wizard of Oz' role because of Howard Hughes?". New York Post. Retrieved 12 October 2016.
  9. ^ "Wins Decree". The Capital Times. Wisconsin, Madison. Associated Press. November 21, 1939. p. 5. Retrieved October 11, 2016 – via Newspapers.com.  
  10. ^ "Helen Gilbert Divorced". The Ottawa Journal. Canada, Ottawa, Ontario. December 9, 1942. p. 4. Retrieved October 10, 2016 – via Newspapers.com.  
  11. ^ "Marriages". Billboard. February 26, 1949. p. 56. Retrieved 12 October 2016.
  12. ^ "Lana's Daughter Says She Slew to Save Mother". The San Bernardino County Sun. California, San Bernardino. April 6, 1958. p. 3. Retrieved October 11, 2016 – via Newspapers.com.  
  13. ^ "Marriages". Broadcasting. October 22, 1949. p. 28. Retrieved 12 October 2016.
  14. ^ "Helen Gilbert Asks 6th Spouse To Pay". Valley Times. California, North Hollywood. June 5, 1952. p. 15. Retrieved January 9, 2020 – via Newspapers.com.
  15. ^ "Actress Wed to Seventh Drops Fight With Sixth". The Los Angeles Times. California, Los Angeles. December 17, 1952. p. 2. Retrieved January 9, 2020 – via Newspapers.com.
  16. ^ "Drops Suit, Weds". Corsicana Daily Sun. Texas, Corsicana. Associated Press. December 18, 1952. p. 9. Retrieved October 10, 2016 – via Newspapers.com.  
  17. ^ "Actress Helen Gilbert Sued for Return of Ring". The Los Angeles Times. California, Los Angeles. September 1, 1951. p. 3. Retrieved January 9, 2020 – via Newspapers.com.