Hollywood is a land of dreams, where aspiring actors and actresses flock to in hopes of making it big. For some, the journey to stardom is a smooth sail, while for others, it is a bumpy road filled with ups and downs. One such actress who never reached her full potential is Helen Walker. Despite her undeniable talent and stunning looks, Helen’s career failed to take off as it should have. In this video, we will take a closer look at her life, her career, and the reasons why she never achieved the success that she deserved. So sit back, relax, and let’s delve into the world of Hollywood and the fascinating story of Helen Walker.
Facts Verse Presents: Sadly Helen Walker Never Reached Her Full Potential as an Actress
Helen Marion Walker, an actress best known for her captivating performances, was born on July 17, 1920, in Worcester, Massachusetts. Her Irish-American parents struggled to make ends meet, and Helen’s family lived in poverty during her childhood. Tragically, her father, who managed a grocery store, passed away when she was only six years old, leaving her and her two sisters to go live on a farm in Upton, Massachusetts. With her mother working at a department store, the family was still barely making ends meet when Helen’s mother suffered a nervous breakdown, adding to their woes.
As a high school student, Walker found her passion for acting while participating in school plays. She earned a scholarship to the Erskine School of Dramatics in Boston and began her studies. However, after her first play, Helen withdrew from the school after being embarrassed by her performance. Despite this initial setback, Helen Walker’s passion for acting never waned, and she continued to pursue her dream of becoming a successful actress.
After she dropped out of the Erskine School of Dramatics, Walker got her start in acting by performing in local stock theater. Her talent soon led her to Broadway, where in 1942, she landed the role of Lisa Otis in the production Jason. During this time, she also tied the knot with Robert Blumofe, a lawyer for Paramount, in Tijuana, Mexico on November 19, 1942. Unfortunately, their marriage was tumultuous one that ultimately ended in divorce in 1946. It was rumored that Blumofe’s drinking played a significant role in the unraveling of their marriage.
In 1942, Walker made her first film appearance in Lucky Jordan, a comedy featuring Alan Ladd. She quickly gained recognition for her performances in leading roles in comedies, often playing the “reactress”, a term that she coined, to comedic leads. Two of her notable films from 1945 are Brewster’s Millions and Murder, He Says.
Interestingly, according to Canadian-American actress Yvonne de Carlo, Walker was a “good natured but tough-talking starlet” who introduced fellow Paramount contract player Gail Russell to the calming effects of vodka. Carlo noted in her 1987 biography that Russell despised acting and everything that went along with it. She especially hated being put on display before film crews and executives. So When she discovered, with Walker’s help, that she could simply numb her sorrows and drown her insecurities, initially she found this to be a godsend. However, Russell’s reliance on alcohol eventually led to addiction.
After her divorce from Blumofe, Walker began dating H. Bruce “Lucky” Humberstone, a well-known director of Charlie Chan films, as well as 1941s I Wake Up Screaming, 1943s Hello, Frisco, Hello, and 1944s Pin-Up Girl. In fact, Humberstone was already familiar with Walker, having served as best man at her wedding to Blumofe, with his then-wife as the matron of honor. Like Blumofe, Humberstone and Walker were known for their partying ways in Hollywood. Humberstone also directed Walker’s 1947 film The Homestretch.
Helen Walker’s Hollywood career was cut short when a devastating car accident almost took her life. It was the end of 1946, and she had just wrapped up filming for “Her Adventurous Night” and was set to star in “Heaven Only Knows.” But before she could start work on the new film, a seemingly harmless decision to pick up three hitchhikers on her way to Hollywood changed her life forever.
Driving a convertible coupe belonging to director Bruce “Lucky” Humberstone, Walker picked up a soldier named Robert E. Lee, and two young students, Philip Mercado and Joseph Montalde. Near Redlands, California, the car careened off the road and rolled over multiple times, ejecting all four passengers. Tragically, Lee was killed on impact, and Walker and the two students were severely injured.
Walker suffered multiple fractures to her pelvis and clavicle, and her foot was crushed. She spent over a month in the hospital, but the emotional scars of the accident lingered on. Despite her legal troubles and the accident, Walker was determined to continue her acting career. She went on to take up prominent roles in films such as “Call Northside 777” and “My Dear Secretary,” and perhaps her most famous role as the duplicitous psychoanalyst in the original version of “Nightmare Alley.”
The accident, however, took a significant toll on Walker’s life, and she faced multiple lawsuits from the injured passengers. Mercado sued her for $150,000, alleging that Walker was driving recklessly, ignored his requests to slow down, and was even smoking while driving. Montalde also sued her for $100,000. The police estimated that Walker was driving at an excessive speed of over 80 mph, and a responding officer even claimed to have smelled alcohol on her breath. Despite the charges of manslaughter, which were later dismissed, Walker continued to work in Hollywood, although she was no longer greeted with open arms.\
Things Went From Bad To Worse
Helen Walker’s bright future in Hollywood was extinguished by that tragic accident that ended the life of a US soldier. Even though she was eventually cleared of criminal charges, the repercussions were brutal for her career. United Artists had to reshoot all of her scenes in Heaven Only Knows with Marjorie Reynolds, a costly and time-consuming endeavor. Major studios were hesitant to hire her, and Hollywood insiders saw her as a liability, “the drunk who killed a US soldier.”
Despite her early promise, Walker could only secure thankless supporting roles in films like Call Northside 777, where she played James Stewart’s wife, and My Dear Secretary, where she was Rudy Vallee’s secretary. The accident had taken its toll, and her career was in free fall. Her face had changed as well, with puffy cheeks and dark circles under her eyes, replacing her once-dewy, fresh appearance. In her next film, Impact, she played a scheming, murderous wife, a departure from her previous roles, but her reputation had already been tarnished.
Walker’s final three films were lower-budgeted B-flicks, a stark contrast to her auspicious start in Hollywood. In My True Story, she played a paroled inmate trying to turn her life around. In Problem Girls, she appeared as a stern matron of a girl’s school. Her final film, The Big Combo, was a well-received film noir, but her role was small. It reminded audiences of the potential that had gone unrealized due to the tragic accident.
Despite the support of colleagues and friends from her film days, including Dinah Shore, Hugh O’Brien, Ruth Roman, and Vivian Blaine, Walker’s fortunes continued to decline.
In 1950 she married Department store executive Edward DuDomaine, but that marriage too ended in divorce just two years later. Perhaps she should have listened more intently to her instincts as at one point, she had told the LA Times that when she first met Edward, she hated him. Needless to say, their marriage was a very unhappy one. Walker ended up testifying before the judge in her divorce proceedings that DuDomaine resented her career, friends in the entertainment industry and everything else about her. In fact, she stated that he made her drop her friends and give up her potentially lucrative film contracts.
Not long after that, she lost everything in a house fire. Since she was struggling financially at the time, several Hollywood actresses ended up holding a benefit in her honor to assist her. In addition to all of that hardship, she was diagnosed with jaw cancer in 1959, and on March 10, 1968, she passed away in her small apartment in North Hollywood, California. She was only 47 years old. Her body was returned to Massachusetts and laid to rest beside her father.
What Might Have Been
It really is a shame what happened to Hellen Walker. She started out with so much potential and drive. She had the talent and looks to go just about anywhere in the entertainment industry, but unfortunately, she didn’t seem to have the luck to go along with that.
Her love for the bottle and partying led her to mix in company with individuals who didn’t always have her best interests at heart. In turn, she introduced others to a lifestyle that would inevitably deeply harm their lives and careers as well.
But the real cause of her downfall clearly was that accident. If she had never made that split-second decision to pick up those hitchhikers, her life and career likely would have played out much differently. While she likely still would have eventually been diagnosed with cancer, her remaining years probably would have been filled with roles in critically acclaimed films. Today, her name might be equal in weight to stars like Audrey Hepburn, Jayne Mansfield, Sophia Loren, and Elizabeth Taylor. Sadly, the majority of modern viewers are relatively unfamiliar with Walker and her body of work.
Her name has been demoted to a mere footnote in cinema history, and those that are familiar with her, usually only focus on her accident and downfall. She probably would hate to hear this, but sadly, Helen Walker’s legacy is synonymous with the fact that she failed to live up to her full potential.
Anyway, that about wraps up this video. Hopefully, you’ve enjoyed delving into the tragic history of Helen Walker’s life and career with us.
Now it’s time to hear from you. Did you know that Helen Walker was involved in a fatal car accident that eventually led to her career downfall and that she ended up dying of cancer at the relatively young age of 47? Let us know in the comments. And as always, thanks for watching.