Helen Walker

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

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)
OccupationActress
Years active1942–1960
Spouse(s)
(m. 1942; div. 1946)

Edward DuDomaine
(m. 1950; div. 1952)

BiographyEdit

1920–1940: Early lifeEdit

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, and 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 suffered a nervous breakdown.[3]

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

1941–1946: Career beginnings and filmEdit

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] She married Paramount lawyer Robert Blumofe on November 19, 1942 in Tijuana, Mexico,[6] but the marriage ended in divorce in 1946.

Walker made her film debut in 1942's Lucky Jordan, a comedy starring Alan Ladd. She earned a solid reputation playing leading roles in comedies as what she termed a "reactress," a straight man to comic leads in films such as Brewster's Millions and Murder, He Says, both released in 1945.[7]

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 both under contract to Paramount.[8] Russell subsequently became an alcoholic.

1947–1955: Auto accident and career declineEdit

 
Helen Walker with Charles Coburn in Impact (1949)

Walker had just finished filming Her Adventurous Night (1946) and was set to begin Heaven Only Knows[1] when an auto accident drastically disrupted her career. On December 31, 1946,[2] while driving a convertible coupe[9] belonging to director Bruce "Lucky" Humberstone from Palm Springs to Hollywood on U.S. Route 99,[9] she picked up three hitchhikers: first, a soldier named Robert E. Lee, and later 18-year-old students Philip Mercado and Joseph Montalde.[10] Near Redlands, California, the car slid off the road into a dirt division strip and rolled for more than 300 feet, flipping over as many as seven times and ejecting all four passengers. Lee was killed as his head struck the pavement,[9] and Walker and the other two passengers were seriously injured.[11] Walker suffered fractures to her pelvis and clavicle as well as a crushed foot,[9] and spent more than a month in the hospital.[12] Mercado, who had been thrown nearly 80 feet (24 m) from the car,[9] sued Walker for $150,000,[13] claiming that Walker was driving "like a fool," ignored his requests to slow down and diverted her attention from the road to ask for a cigarette just before the accident.[14] Montalde sued Walker for $100,000.[15] The police estimated that Walker had been speeding in excess of 80 mph (130 km/h) and a responding officer stated that he had smelled alcohol on her breath.[14] A coroner's jury found that Walker had been driving negligently.[12] She was charged with manslaughter for Lee's death,[15] but the charge was later dismissed for lack of evidence.[16] Walker was replaced in Heaven Only Knows by Marjorie Reynolds.

Despite the accident and her legal troubles, Walker continued to act, and she appeared in perhaps her most famous role as the duplicitous psychoanalyst in Nightmare Alley (1947). She also took prominent roles in films such as Call Northside 777 (1948), My Dear Secretary (1948) and Impact (1949).

In 1950, Walker married department-store executive Edward DuDomaine,[17] but the couple divorced in 1952.[1][18]

Following starring roles in My True Story (1951) and Problem Girls (1953), Walker made her final film appearance in Joseph H. Lewis's film noir The Big Combo in 1955. She retired from acting at the age of 35.

1956–1968: Post-actingEdit

In 1960, after Walker's house was destroyed by fire, several other Hollywood actresses held a benefit to assist her.[1]

DeathEdit

Walker died of cancer following a nine-year illness[12] on March 10, 1968 in the North Hollywood section of Los Angeles, California at the age of 47.[4][19]

Political viewsEdit

A Democrat, Walker supported Adlai Stevenson's campaign during the 1952 presidential election.[20]

FilmographyEdit

FilmEdit

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

TelevisionEdit

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. ^ 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. ^ Wagner 2020, p. 185.
  7. ^ 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.
  8. ^ De Carlo, Yvonne; Warren, Doug (1987). Yvonne : an autobiography. St Martins Press. p. 72.
  9. ^ a b c d e "Soldier Dies, Three Hurt As Coupe Skids Off Road". The San Bernardino Sun. 1947-01-03. p. 12.
  10. ^ Wagner 2020, p. 186.
  11. ^ Wagner 2020, pp. 186–188.
  12. ^ a b c "Helen Walker, Actress, West Boylston Native". The Boston Globe. 1968-03-12. p. 27.
  13. ^ "Hitchhiker Seeks Damages From Helen Walker". Los Angeles Times. 1947-03-06.
  14. ^ a b "Chief of Police Says Film Player To Face Charges". The San Bernardino Sun. 1947-01-05. p. 16.
  15. ^ a b "Film Actress Must Stand Trial". The San Bernardino County Sun. 1947-03-26. p. 12 – via Newspapers.com.
  16. ^ "Helen Walker Cleared in Hitchhiker's Death" Los Angeles Times, April 9, 1947.
  17. ^ "Hollywood Couples Marry Over Weekend."Herkimer (NY) Evening Telegram, 2 May 1950.
  18. ^ "Actress Given Final Decree." Albany Times-Union, 18 June 1953.
  19. ^ ""Film Actress Helen Walker Dies of Cancer"". Chicago Tribune. Mar 12, 1968. p. 43.
  20. ^ Motion Picture and Television Magazine, November 1952, page 33, Ideal Publishers

SourcesEdit

  • 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 linksEdit