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Helen Twelvetrees
Born Helen Marie Jurgens
December 25, 1908(1908-12-25)
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
Died February 13, 1958 (aged 49)
Middletown, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Occupation Actress
Spouse(s) Clark Twelvetrees (m. 1927–1931) «start: (1927)–end+1: (1931-05)»"Marriage: Clark Twelvetrees to Helen Twelvetrees" Location: (linkback:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helen_Twelvetrees)
Jack Woody (m. 1931–1936) «start: (1931-04-17)–end+1: (1936-04-16)»"Marriage: Jack Woody to Helen Twelvetrees" Location: (linkback:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helen_Twelvetrees)
Conrad Payne (? - February 13, 1958)

Helen Twelvetrees (December 25, 1908 - February 13, 1958) was an American stage and screen performer, considered a top female star in the early days of sound films.

Contents

Early life and career

Born Helen Marie Jurgens in Brooklyn, New York, a graduate of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, where she met her first husband, actor Clark Twelvetrees. With some stage experience, she went to Hollywood with a number of other actors to replace the silent stars that could not or would not make the transition to talkies. Her first job was with Fox Film Corporation and she appeared in The Ghost Talks (1929).

Her career was as turbulent as her personal life. After a mere three films with Fox, she was released from her contract. However, she was signed by Pathé shortly thereafter, and along with Constance Bennett and Ann Harding, Twelvetrees starred in several lachrymose dramas, not all of which were critically acclaimed. When Pathé was absorbed by RKO Radio Pictures, she found herself at various times miscast in mediocre films. With the arrival of Katharine Hepburn at RKO, Twelvetrees left the studio to freelance. (Harding and Bennett would also subsequently depart.)

The 1930 film Her Man set the course of her screen career, and she would forever be asked to play suffering women fighting for the wrong men. Later she played opposite Spencer Tracy in 1934's Now I'll Tell (also known as When New York Sleeps) from a novel by Mrs. Arnold Robinson; opposite Donald Cook in The Spanish Cape Mystery; and costarred in Paramount's A Bedtime Story with Maurice Chevalier. She also starred in two Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer films, which induced a critic to note that she "had a gift for projecting emotional force with minimal visible effort." However, some other critics (including one from The New York Times) felt that she tended to overact in a few of her other appearances.

By 1936 to 1937, she was publicly feuding with her second husband, ex-stunt man Frank Woody, and appearing in B-Westerns and crime thrillers. In 1936, she travelled to Australia to star in the Cinesound Studios production Thoroughbred about the rise of a Melbourne Cup winning racehorse. The filming was done at Cinesound Studios sound stages in Bondi Junction, Sydney.

Later career and death

Twelvetrees left films in favor of summer stock in 1939 and made her Broadway debut in Jacques Deval's Boudoir in 1941. The play folded after only eleven performances and she semi-retired to Middletown, Pennsylvania, with her third husband, a military officer. She occasionally continued to act and successfully essayed the role of Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire in summer stock in Sea Cliff, New York in August 1951. A cast member of that production recalled of Twelvetrees that "she had the saddest eyes I'd ever seen" and "it was also obvious that she had an extremely fragile psyche."[1]

On February 13, 1958, Twelvetrees committed suicide in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania by overdosing on drugs. She was 49 years old and survived by her son, Jack Woody Jr. (b. 26 October 1932) and husband Conrad Payne, who was stationed at a nearby military base.[1]

Filmography

Year Title Role Notes
1929 The Ghost Talks Miriam Holt
Blue Skies Dorothy May Episode 2
Words and Music Dorothy Blake
1930 The Grand Parade Molly
Swing High Maryan
Her Man Frankie Keefe
The Cat Creeps Annabelle West
1931 The Painted Desert Mary Ellen Cameron
Millie Millicent "Millie" Blake Maitland
A Woman of Experience Elsa Elsbergen Alternative title: Registered Woman
Bad Company Helen King Carlyle
1932 Panama Flo Flo Bennett
Young Bride Allie Smith Riggs
State's Attorney June Perry Alternative title: Cardigan's Last Case
Is My Face Red? Peggy Bannon
Unashamed Joan Ogden
1933 Broken Hearts
A Bedtime Story Sally
Disgraced! Gay Holloway
My Woman Connie Riley Rollins
King for a Night Lillian Williams
1934 All Men Are Enemies Katha
Now I'll Tell Virginia Golden Alternative titles: Now I'll Tell You
When New York Sleeps
She Was a Lady Sheila Vane
One Hour Late Bessie Dunn
1935 Times Square Lady Margo Heath
She Gets Her Man Francine
The Spanish Cape Mystery Stella Godfrey
Frisco Waterfront Alice Alternative title: When We Look Back
1936 Thoroughbred Joan
1937 Hollywood Round-Up Carol Stevens
1939 Persons in Hiding Helen Griswold
Unmarried Pat Rogers

Notes

  1. ^ Brettell, Andrew; Imwold, Denis; Kennedy, Damien; King, Noel (2005). Cut!: Hollywood Murders, Accidents, and Other Tragedies. Leonard, Warren Hsu; von Rohr, Heather. Barrons Educational Series. pp. 287. ISBN 0-764-15858-9.  

References

  • Here in the Hills blog detailing appearance in A Streetcar Named Desire
  • Eames, John Douglas (1979). The MGM Story. New York City: Crown Publishers, Inc..  
  • Eames, John Douglas (1985). The Paramount Story. New York City: Crown Publishers, Inc..  
  • Jewell, Richard B. (1982). The RKO Story. New York City: Arlington House, a division of Crown Publishers, Inc..  
  • Katz, Ephraim (1981). The Film Encyclopedia. New York City: Harper Perennial.  

External links

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