Helen Walker

Helen Walker (July 17, 1920 – March 10, 1968) was an American film actress of the 1940s and 1950s.[1]

Helen Walker
Helen Walker in Impact (publicity still).jpg
Walker in 1949
Born(1920-07-17)July 17, 1920
DiedMarch 10, 1968(1968-03-10) (aged 47)
Resting placeOak Hill Cemetery, Sterling, Massachusetts
Years active1942–1960
Spouse(s)Edward DuDomaine (1950–1952) (divorced)
Robert F. Blumofe (1942–1946) (divorced)
Charles Coburn and Helen Walker in Impact (1949)

CareerEdit

Walker was born in Worcester, Massachusetts, and 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.[2]

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. 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.

After a promising start in Hollywood, Walker was involved in a 1946 car wreck. A hitchhiker was killed, and Helen and two others were seriously injured. She was charged with drunk and reckless driving. She was subsequently acquitted and made a comeback, but her career never fully recovered. Her final big-screen appearance was in Joseph H. Lewis's film noir The Big Combo in 1955. She retired from acting at the age of 35 and died in North Hollywood, California from cancer at the age of 47.[3]

Auto accidentEdit

She had just finished making what would become her most well-known film, 1947's Nightmare Alley, and was filming Heaven Only Knows[1] when an auto accident drastically disrupted Walker's career.

On December 31, 1946, while driving the car of director Bruce "Lucky" Humberstone from Palm Springs to Hollywood, she gave a ride to three hitchhiking soldiers named Robert E. Lee, Philip Mercado, and Joseph Montalvo. Near Redlands, California, the car hit a divider and flipped over, killing Lee and causing serious injuries to Walker and the other two passengers. Mercado brought a civil suit for $150,000 against her.[4] Montalvo sued for $100,000.[1] 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 drunk. The two plaintiffs were arrested on unrelated charges. Mercado was fingered as a suspect in an armed robbery and arrested. Montalvo 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.[5]

Personal lifeEdit

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.[6] Russell subsequently became an alcoholic.

She was married to Paramount studio lawyer Robert Blumofe (1942, divorced 1946), and department store executive Edward DuDomaine (1950, divorced 1952).[1] When her house burned in 1960, other actresses held a benefit to assist her.[1]

A Democrat, she supported Adlai Stevenson's campaign during the 1952 presidential election.[7]

FilmographyEdit

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)

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b c d Obituary Variety, March 13, 1968, page 79.
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ ""Film Actress Helen Walker Dies of Cancer",". Chicago Tribune. Mar 12, 1968. p. 43.
  4. ^ "Hitchhiker Seeks Damages From Helen Walker", Los Angeles Times, March 6, 1947.
  5. ^ "Helen Walker Cleared in Hitchhiker's Death" Los Angeles Times, April 9, 1947.
  6. ^ De Carlo, Yvonne; Warren, Doug (1987). Yvonne : an autobiography. St Martins Press. p. 72.
  7. ^ Motion Picture and Television Magazine, November 1952, page 33, Ideal Publishers

External linksEdit