Emerson in Lady Gangster
|Born||Faye Margaret Emerson
July 8, 1917
Elizabeth, Louisiana, U.S.
|Died||March 9, 1983
Deya, Majorca, Spain
|Spouse(s)||Skitch Henderson (1950-1957)
Elliott Roosevelt (1944-1950)
William Crawford (1938-1942) 1 child
Faye Margaret Emerson (July 8, 1917 – March 9, 1983) was an American film actress and television interviewer known as "The First Lady of Television." Beginning in 1941, she acted in many Warner Brothers films. In 1944, she played one of her more memorable roles as Zachary Scott's former wife in The Mask of Dimitrios. She was also notable for being the third wife of presidential son Elliott Roosevelt from 1944 to 1950.
Emerson was born to Lawrence and Emma (Smythe) in the tiny community of Elizabeth in Allen Parish in southwestern Louisiana. She moved with her mother to San Diego before the war. There she took up acting and by 1940 was a Hollywood starlet.
In 1948, she made a move to television and began acting in various anthology series, including The Chevrolet Tele-Theatre, The Philco Television Playhouse, and Goodyear Television Playhouse. She served as host for several short-lived talk shows and musical/variety shows, including Paris Cavalcade of Fashions (1948) and The Faye Emerson Show (CBS, 1950).
Although The Faye Emerson Show only lasted one season, it gave her wide exposure because her time slot immediately followed the CBS Evening News and alternated weeknights with the popular The Perry Como Show. According to author Gabe Essoe in The Book of TV Lists, on one of the show's segments, her low-cut gown slipped and "she exposed her ample self coast to coast." The show was broadcast from a studio CBS built on the sixth floor of the Stork Club building. The studio, a complete replica of the Stork Club's Cub Room, was built for The Stork Club, also seen on CBS beginning in 1950.
After The Faye Emerson Show, she continued in TV with other talk shows, including Faye Emerson's Wonderful Town (1951-1952), Author Meets the Critics (1952), and Faye and Skitch (1953). She also made numerous guest appearances on various variety shows and game shows.
Emerson hosted or appeared on so many talk shows—usually wearing evening gowns—and game shows, such as I've Got a Secret, that she was known as "The First Lady of Television." The glamorous Emerson was so popular in the early 1950s that it was rumored that the newly created Emmy Award was named after her.
Faye Emerson married her first husband, William Crawford, a naval aviator, in 1938. However, Faye's activities in the movie industry were not conducive to a stable marriage, and though it produced one son, William Crawford, Jr., the marriage was over by the time Faye met President Franklin D. Roosevelt's son, Colonel Elliott Roosevelt, in August 1943.
Howard Hughes was instrumental in bringing the two together when Colonel Roosevelt visited the Hughes Aircraft Company to evaluate the proposed Hughes XF-11. Though Elliott was married, Faye and he linked up, strongly urged on by the generous efforts of Hughes and his social facilitator, Johnny Meyer. Faye later asserted that despite her doubts, Hughes urged her to advance the relationship, and she knew that she could not defy Hughes. In December 1944, Hughes and Meyer provided the funding and airplanes for Faye's and Elliott's well-publicized marriage at the rim of the Grand Canyon. When Elliott went back to Europe, he named his reconnaissance aircraft "My Faye."
After some months in Beverly Hills in 1945, the couple resided with Eleanor Roosevelt at Hyde Park, N.Y. They had no children. The marriage began breaking up by 1947. In December 1948, Faye Emerson slit her wrists and was briefly hospitalized. In January 1950, Faye obtained a divorce in Cuernavaca, Mexico.
Next year, she married band leader and conductor Lyle "Skitch" Henderson in the same town, and after Skitch got into some problems, divorced him in 1957 in Acapulco, Mexico. Former brother-in-law James Roosevelt wrote that "after an incident involving some teen-age girls he (Skitch) was dropped from Johnny Carson's Tonight TV show and his career went into eclipse. Faye's marriage to Skitch hit the skids. She didn't have much luck in her married life, but she endures, and we think of her fondly."
Retirement and Death
Once a Hollywood starlet enjoying the show business spotlight, the wealthy Emerson moved to Spain and spent the rest of her life in seclusion. She died in 1983 at the age of sixty-five of stomach cancer in Deià, Majorca, a village favored by retired artists and entertainers. For years she lived there with Anne Roosevelt, the divorced first wife of Elliott's brother John Aspinwall Roosevelt.
- Affectionately Yours (1941)
- The Nurse's Secret (1941)
- Bad Men of Missouri (1941)
- Manpower (1941)
- Nine Lives Are Not Enough (1941)
- Blues in the Night (1941)
- Wild Bill Hickok Rides (1942)
- Lady Gangster (1942)
- Murder in the Big House (1942)
- Juke Girl (1942)
- Secret Enemies (1942)
- Air Force (1943)
- The Hard Way (1943)
- Find the Blackmailer (1943)
- The Desert Song (1943)
- Destination Tokyo (1943)
- In Our Time (1944)
- Uncertain Glory (1944)
- Between Two Worlds (1944)
- The Mask of Dimitrios (1944)
- Crime by Night (1944)
- The Very Thought of You (1944)
- Hollywood Canteen (1944)
- Hotel Berlin (1945)
- Danger Signal (1945)
- Her Kind of Man (1946)
- Nobody Lives Forever (1946)
- Guilty Bystander (1950)
- Main Street to Broadway (1953)
- A Face in the Crowd (1957)
- Hansen, Chris. Enfant Terrible: The Times and Schemes of General Elliott Roosevelt. Able Baker Press, 2012.
- Roosevelt, James. My Parents: A Differing View. Playboy Press, 1976.