Helene Costello

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Helene Costello
Dolores & Helene Costello from Stars of the Photoplay.jpg
Costello (left) pictured with her sister Dolores
Born (1906-06-21)June 21, 1906
New York City, New York, U.S.
Died January 26, 1957(1957-01-26) (aged 50)
San Bernardino, California, U.S.
Cause of death
Pneumonia
Resting place
Calvary Cemetery
Nationality American
Other names Helen Costello
Miss Helene
Occupation Actress
Years active 1909–1942
Spouse(s) John W. Regan (m. 1927; div. 1929)
Lowell Sherman (m. 1930; div. 1932)
Arturo de Barrio (m. 1933; div. 1939)
George Lee Le Blanc (m. 1940; div. 1948)
Children 1
Parents Maurice Costello
Mae Costello
Relatives Dolores Costello (sister)

Helene Costello (June 21, 1906 – January 26, 1957) was an American stage and film actress, most notably of the silent era.

Early life and career[edit]

Born in New York City, Costello was the youngest daughter of the prominent stage and pioneering film actor Maurice Costello and his actress wife Mae Costello (née Altschuk).[1] She had an older sister Dolores who also became an actress and would go on to marry John Barrymore.[2] Costello first appeared on screen, opposite her father, in the 1909 film adaptation of Victor Hugo's Les Misérables.[3] She would continue acting in films throughout the 1910s as a child actor and also worked in vaudeville and appeared in stage roles.[4] In 1924, she appeared with her sister Dolores in George White's Scandals. Shortly thereafter, both sisters signed contracts with Warner Bros.[5] Costello reached her peak of public popularity in the mid-1920s and earned a reported $3,000 a week.[6]

Although she had been appearing on screen since her early childhood, Costello was selected as a WAMPAS Baby Star in 1927, a promotional campaign sponsored by the Western Association of Motion Picture Advertisers in the United States, which honored thirteen young women each year who they believed to be on the threshold of movie stardom. In 1928, Costello co-starred in the first all-talking full length feature film Lights of New York. Later that same year, she was released from her contract with Warner Bros. after she refused to star as a leading lady opposite Rin Tin Tin.[4] Costello's final substantial role was opposite her sister Dolores in the all-star Technicolor musical revue The Show of Shows (1929). Costello and her sister performed in the "Meet My Sister" musical number.

After the advent of sound, Costello's career declined reportedly because her voice did not record well.[4] She was also beset with personal problems including illnesses, an addiction to drugs and alcohol, three divorces, a public custody battle with her third ex-husband and financial difficulties.[6][7] From 1930 to 1934, Costello did not appear in a film. In September 1935, she signed a contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and returned to the screen in a supporting role in Riffraff (1936).[8] Her final role was a bit part in the 1942 film The Black Swan. Later in 1942, Costello filed for bankruptcy.[6]

Personal life[edit]

Costello was married four times, each marriage ending in divorce. Her first marriage was to football player John W. Regan in 1927. They divorced in June 1928.[9] Costello's second marriage was to actor/director Lowell Sherman whom she married on March 15, 1930 in Beverly Hills.[2] They separated in November 1931 and were divorced in May 1932.[10][11] Costello third marriage was to Dr. Arturo de Barrio, a lawyer who came from a prominent Cuban family. They were married in Havana on January 6, 1933.[12] Their marriage was considered invalid because Costello's divorce from her second husband was not finalized. They married for a second time in June 1933 in Los Angeles.[13] They were divorced in 1939.

Her fourth and final marriage was to artist George Lee Le Blanc whom Costello married in 1940. The couple had a daughter, Diedre, in 1942.[14] Costello filed for divorce on August 6, 1947.[15] Shortly after Costello filed for divorce, Le Blanc joined the Merchant Marine. Before leaving, Le Blanc left Diedre in the care of Costello's sister Dolores claiming that Costello was unfit to care for Diedre because of her alcoholism.[16] Costello denied Le Blanc's claim and attempted to regain sole custody in September 1947. During one custody hearing, Costello's father and Lionel Barrymore (Dolores Costello's ex brother-in-law) testified that Costello did not have a drinking problem.[17] In April 1948, Costelleo was forced to drop her suit due to financial troubles and Le Blanc was awarded temporary custody of Diedre.[18] Costello and Le Blanc were divorced in June 1948.[19]

Death[edit]

On January 24, 1957, Costello was admitted to Patton State Hospital under an assumed name for treatment for a drug and alcohol addiction. She died there two days later of pneumonia.[7][6] Her funeral was held on January 30 after which she was interred in an unmarked grave at Calvary Cemetery in East Los Angeles.[20][21]

For her contribution to the motion film industry, Helene Costello has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1500 Vine Street in Hollywood.[3]

Selected filmography[edit]

Short subject
Year Title Role Notes
1909 Les Misérables Child Part 1
1909 A Midsummer Night's Dream Fairy
1910 The Fruits of Vengeance Pauline's child
1911 A Quaker Mother The Harmon Daughter
1911 Her Crowning Glory Helen, the Child
1912 The Meeting of the Ways One of Tom's Children
1912 In the Garden Fair Mrs. Rose's Daughter, Helen
1913 Beau Brummel Child Uncredited
1913 The Price of Thoughtlessness Mabel
1914 Bunny's Mistake Little Helene
1914 The Barrel Organ The Child
1915 The Evil Men Do Beatrice - as a Little Girl
1915 Lifting the Ban of Coventry Helen Stuyvesant - their child
1916 Billie's Mother
Features
Year Title Role Notes
1912 Cleopatra Nicola - a Child
1925 Ranger of the Big Pines Virginia Weatherford
1925 The Man on the Box Bob's Sister
1925 Bobbed Hair
1926 The Love Toy Princess Patricia
1926 Wet Paint She
1926 Don Juan Rena - Adriana's Maid Uncredited
1926 The Honeymoon Express Margaret Lambert
1926 Millionaires Ida
1926 While London Sleeps Dale Burke
1927 Finger Prints Jacqueline Norton
1927 The Fortune Hunter Josie Lockwood
1927 The Broncho Twister Paulita Brady
1927 The Heart of Maryland Nancy
1927 Good Time Charley Rosita Keene - Daughter
1927 In Old Kentucky Nancy Holden
1927 Husbands for Rent Molly Devoe
1928 Burning Up Broadway Floss
1928 Comrades Helen Dixon
1928 Phantom of the Turf Joan
1928 Lights of New York Kitty Lewis
1928 The Midnight Taxi Nan Parker


1928 The Circus Kid Trixie
1928 Broken Barriers Beryl Moore
1929 When Dreams Come True Caroline Swayne
1929 The Fatal Warning Dorothy Rogers
1929 Innocents of Paris Bit Role Uncredited
1929 The Show of Shows Performer in "Meet My Sister" Number
1935 Public Hero No. 1 Undetermined Role Uncredited
1936 Riffraff Maizie
1942 The Black Swan Woman Uncredited

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Early Film Star Dies". Reading Eagle. October 30, 1950. p. 14. 
  2. ^ a b "Helene Costello Weds Film Actor". The Pittsburgh Press. March 16, 1930. p. 1. 
  3. ^ a b "Hollywood Star Walk: Helene Costello". latimes.com. 
  4. ^ a b c Lowe, Denise (2005). An Encyclopedic Dictionary of Women in Early American Films, 1895-1930. Psychology Press. p. 132. ISBN 0-789-01843-8. 
  5. ^ McCaffrey, Donald W.; Jacobs, Christopher P. (1999). Guide to the Silent Years of American Cinema. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 89. ISBN 0-313-30345-2. 
  6. ^ a b c d "Helene Costello, Ex-Actress, Dies". The Milwaukee Journal. January 29, 1957. p. 1. 
  7. ^ a b Lowe 2005 p.133
  8. ^ Percy, Eileen (September 6, 1935). "Ginger Rogers' Next Retitled". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. p. 16. 
  9. ^ "Helene Costello Divorces John Regan, Ex-Grid Star". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. June 28, 1928. p. 2. 
  10. ^ "Accuses Actress In Divorce Suit". Herald-Journal. December 2, 1931. p. 1. 
  11. ^ "Helene Costello Is Granted Divorce After Court Drama". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. May 11, 1932. p. 1. 
  12. ^ "Helene Costello Weds Havana Lawyer In Cuba". St. Petersburg Times. January 11, 1933. p. 2. 
  13. ^ "Wed Second Time". Sarasota Herald-Tribune. June 21, 1933. p. 8. 
  14. ^ "Actress Is Unable To House Child". Spokane Daily Chronicle. April 20, 1948. p. 12. 
  15. ^ "Helene Costello Files Divorce Suit". Reading Eagle. August 7, 1947. p. 28. 
  16. ^ "Dolores Costello Award Custody Of Her Niece". San Jose Evening News. September 13, 1947. 
  17. ^ "Old Troupers Testify In Custody Action". Spokane Daily Chronicle. December 30, 1947. p. 13. 
  18. ^ "Actress Is Unable to House Child". Spokane Daily Chronicle. April 20, 1948. p. 12. 
  19. ^ "Ex-Actress Divorced". Toledo Blade. June 4, 1948. p. 28. 
  20. ^ "Few Attend Rites For Helene Costello". Reading Eagle. January 31, 1957. p. 8. 
  21. ^ Ellenberger, Allan R. (2001). Celebrities in Los Angeles Cemeteries: A Directory. McFarland & Company Incorporated Pub. p. 17. ISBN 0-786-40983-5. 

External links[edit]