Faye Emerson

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Faye Emerson
Emerson in 1943
Faye Margaret Emerson

(1917-07-08)July 8, 1917
Elizabeth, Louisiana, U.S.
DiedMarch 9, 1983(1983-03-09) (aged 65)
Deià, Spain
Years active1941–1961
William Crawford
(m. 1938⁠–⁠1942)
(m. 1944⁠–⁠1950)
(m. 1950⁠–⁠1957)

Faye Margaret Emerson (July 8, 1917 – March 9, 1983) was an American film and stage actress and television interviewer who gained fame as a film actress in the 1940s before transitioning to television in the 1950s and hosting her own talk show.

Born in Louisiana, Emerson spent the majority of her early life in San Diego, California. She became interested in theater while attending San Diego State College and then pursued an acting career, appearing in stock theater in California. She signed a contract with Warner Bros. and began appearing in its films in 1941. She starred in several films noir, including Lady Gangster (1942), and Howard Hawks's war film Air Force (1943). In 1944, she played one of her more memorable roles as Zachary Scott's former lover in The Mask of Dimitrios. From 1944 to 1950, she was married to Elliott Roosevelt, son of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

In 1949, Emerson began hosting The Faye Emerson Show, a late-night talk show series. Her prolific appearances on many talk shows and game shows throughout the 1950s earned her the nickname "The First Lady of Television". During the decade, she also appeared in numerous Broadway stage productions. Emerson formally retired from show business in 1963 and retired to Europe. She lived there until 1983, when she died of stomach cancer in Deià, Spain, aged 65. For her contributions to the motion picture industry, Emerson received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960. Her star is located at 6529 Hollywood Blvd.[1][2]

Early life[edit]

Faye Margaret Emerson was born July 8, 1917, in Elizabeth, Louisiana,[3] the fifth child of Lawrence L. and Jean Emerson.[4] The family moved frequently during her early years, including El Paso, Texas, and New Mexico, when she was an infant.[5] Her parents separated when Emerson was three years old,[5] and she went to Chicago in 1924 to live with her father and stepmother.[3] At age 10, she moved to San Diego, California, to live with her mother,[3] where she spent the remainder of her formative years.[4]

She became interested in dramatics during her two years[6] attending the Academy of San Luis Rey, a Roman Catholic convent and boarding school in Oceanside, California.[5] She attended Point Loma High School, and for one year, San Diego State College.[6] Emerson joined the San Diego Community Theatre,[7] and the St. James Repertory Theater, performing in summer stock productions in California.[8] Emerson married her first husband, William Wallace Crawford, Jr., a naval aviator, on October 29, 1938.[9] The couple had a son, William Wallace "Scoop" Crawford, III, in 1940.[10]

Film career[edit]

In 1941, while appearing in a stage production of Here Today at the San Diego Municipal Theater, Emerson was spotted by a talent agent from Warner Bros. studios.[10] She subsequently signed a contract with the studio, appearing in bit parts before having supporting roles in Bad Men of Missouri and Nine Lives Are Not Enough (both released in 1941). She had her first starring role, as a female gangster, in the Lady Gangster (1942).

Emerson in 1945

In 1943, Emerson met President Franklin D. Roosevelt's son Colonel Elliott Roosevelt.[3] 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 Roosevelt was married, Emerson and he linked up, strongly urged on by the generous efforts of Hughes and his social facilitator, Johnny Meyer. Emerson later asserted that despite her doubts, Hughes urged her to advance the relationship, and she could not defy him. [clarification needed] Emerson and Roosevelt married on December 3, 1944, at the rim of Grand Canyon, where she was filming Hotel Berlin.[11] Hughes and Meyer provided the funding and airplanes for the wedding. When Roosevelt went back to Europe, he named his reconnaissance aircraft "My Faye".[12] After some months in Beverly Hills in 1945, the couple resided with Eleanor Roosevelt at Hyde Park, New York.

Emerson continued to appear in a number of crime dramas, co-starring with Zachary Scott in three: The Mask of Dimitrios (1944), Danger Signal (1945), and Guilty Bystander (1950). She co-starred with John Garfield in the film noir Nobody Lives Forever and opposite Jane Wyman in Crime by Night. Murder in the Big House, made in 1942, was re-released under a new title later in the decade after Emerson began to make a name for herself in television.

By 1947, Emerson's marriage to Roosevelt had begun to disintegrate. In late 1948, after having made her Broadway debut in The Play's the Thing,[13] Emerson attempted suicide on Christmas Day 1948 by slitting her wrists, and was hospitalized.[14] On January 12, 1950, she obtained a divorce from Roosevelt in Cuernavaca, Mexico.[15][16]

Television and theater[edit]

Emerson with Dutch mayor Jan Van der Dussen, 1956

In 1948, Emerson had transitioned to television and had begun 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).

She was hostess and narrator of NBC's Cavalcade of Fashion[17] from August 13 to December 16, 1948...The Faye Emerson Show (CBS) debuted on October 24, 1949 and ended, April 12, 1952. During that time, she was also a member of the glamor panel on NBC's Leave It To The Girls and a frequent guest on Who Said That. She was working steadily at both the networks. In addition to her CBS show, she starred in another Faye Emerson Show for NBC from April 15 to May 20, 1950. When it ended, she appeared on another for NBC: Fifteen With Faye.[18]

In November 1948,[19] Emerson hosted Paris Cavalcade Of Fashions, filmed for movie theaters and aired on NBC (Julie Gibson later replaced her).[20][21] In 1949, Emerson began hosting The Faye Emerson Show, a 15-minute show,[22][23] sometimes appearing on CBS and NBC simultaneously,[24] which, though it lasted only one season, gave her wide exposure. According to author Gabe Essoe in The Book of TV Lists,[25] on one of the show's segments, her low-cut gown slipped and "she exposed her ample self coast to coast."[26] 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.[27][28][29] The Stork Club aired 15 minutes before The Faye Emerson Show.[22][30] Fifteen with Faye aired from June to August 1950 on NBC.[24]

In 1950, Emerson married bandleader and conductor Lyle "Skitch" Henderson in Cuernavaca. After The Faye Emerson Show was cancelled, she continued in television with other talk shows, including Faye Emerson's Wonderful Town (1951–1952), Author Meets the Critics (1952), and Faye and Skitch (1953–54), appearing in the latter with her husband. She made numerous guest appearances on various variety shows and game shows. Emerson hosted or appeared on many talk shows, usually wearing elaborate evening gowns. She was such a frequent panelist on game shows like To Tell The Truth and I've Got a Secret that she was known as "The First Lady of Television" [31] (although that title was sometimes applied to others, including Ruth Lyons and Lucille Ball). During this time, Emerson was earning up to $200,000 per year.[32]

Emerson and Henderson divorced in 1957 in Acapulco, Mexico. Former brother-in-law James Roosevelt wrote: "After an incident involving some teen-age girls, [Skitch] was dropped from Johnny Carson's Tonight TV show, and his career went into eclipse. Emerson's marriage to Skitch hit the skids".[33] However, the teen-age incident happened before Carson's Tonight Show, which didn't begin until 1962, and Emerson had divorced Henderson in 1957. (Henderson had been dropped from Tonight in 1957, but it was the Steve Allen incarnation.)

While appearing on television throughout the 1950s, Emerson also appeared in numerous Broadway productions, including Parisienne (1950), The Heavenly Twins (1955), Protective Custody (1956), and Back to Methuselah (1958).[13]

Personal life[edit]

Eleanor Roosevelt and Faye Emerson, Hyde Park, New York, May 30, 1962

Emerson was married to auto dealer William Crawford from 1938⁠ until ⁠1942, and they had one son together.

She was married to writer Elliott Roosevelt, the son of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, from 1944 until 1950. By 1947, Emerson's marriage to Roosevelt had begun to disintegrate. After having made her Broadway debut in The Play's the Thing,[13] Emerson attempted suicide on Christmas Day 1948 by slitting her wrists and was hospitalized.[14] In January 1950, she obtained a divorce from Roosevelt in Cuernavaca, Mexico.[15][16] Despite her former connection to the Roosevelts, Emerson supported Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower in the presidential election of 1952.[34]

Emerson was married to Skitch Henderson from 1950 until 1957. In 1963, Emerson made her final television appearance and formally retired from showbusiness. [35] She moved to Europe, residing for a time in Switzerland and then settling in Spain in 1975.[32] Emerson rarely returned to the United States and spent much of her time in seclusion.[32] Emerson died on March 9, 1983, at age 65 from stomach cancer[2] in Deià, Spain,[4] where she had lived since 1975.[36]


Year Title Role Notes Ref.
1941 The Great Lie Enthusiastic Film Fan in Trailer Uncredited
1941 At the Stroke of Twelve Miss LaMond Short film
1941 Affectionately Yours Hospital Nurse Uncredited [37]
1941 The Nurse's Secret Telephone Girl [37]
1941 Bad Men of Missouri Martha Adams [37]
1941 Manpower Nurse Who Lost Draw Uncredited [37]
1941 Nine Lives Are Not Enough Rose Chadwick [37]
1941 Blues in the Night Dr. Morse's Nurse Uncredited [37]
1942 Wild Bill Hickok Rides Peg – Chorus Girl [37]
1942 Lady Gangster Dot Burton [37]
1942 Murder in the Big House Gladys Wayne [37]
1942 Juke Girl Violet 'Murph' Murphy [37]
1942 Secret Enemies Paula Fengler [37]
1943 Women at War Anastasia 'Stormy' Hart Short film
1943 Food and Magic Girl in Audience Short film; uncredited
1943 The Hard Way Ice Cream Parlor Waitress [37]
1943 Air Force Susan McMartin [37]
1943 Find the Blackmailer Mona Vance [37]
1943 Destination Tokyo Mrs. Cassidy [37]
1943 The Desert Song Hajy [37]
1944 In Our Time Friend of Count Stephan in Nightclub Uncredited [37]
1944 Uncertain Glory Louise [37]
1944 Between Two Worlds Miss Maxine Russell [37]
1944 The Mask of Dimitrios Irana Preveza [37]
1944 Crime by Night Ann Marlow [37]
1944 The Very Thought of You Cora 'Cuddles' Colton [37]
1944 Hollywood Canteen Herself [37]
1945 Hotel Berlin Tillie Weiler [37]
1945 Danger Signal Hilda Fenchurch [37]
1946 Her Kind of Man Ruby Marino [37]
1946 Nobody Lives Forever Toni Blackburn [37]
1950 Guilty Bystander Georgia [37]
1953 Main Street to Broadway Herself [37]
1957 A Face in the Crowd Herself Uncredited [37]

Stage credits[edit]

Year Title Role Notes Ref.
1948 The Play's the Thing Ilona Szabo Booth Theatre [13]
1950 Parisienne Clotilde Fulton Theatre [13]
1955 The Heavenly Twins Lucile Miremont Booth Theatre [13]
1956 Protective Custody Dolly Byrnes Ambassador Theatre [13]
1958 Back to Methuselah Zoo / Parlor Maid / Mrs. Lutestring / Eve Ambassador Theatre [13]

Radio and TV credits[edit]

Radio show host:

  • That's A Good One, NBC-BLUE (1943)
  • At Home With Faye And Elliott, NBC-BLUE (1946) (co-host: Elliott Roosevelt)

Radio show lead:

  • My Silent Partner, NBC-Radio (1949)

TV show host:

  • Paris Cavalcade Of Fashions, NBC-TV (1948) (also Narrator)
  • The Faye Emerson Show CBS-TV, (1950)
  • The Faye Emerson Show NBC-TV, (1950)[38]
  • Faye Emerson's Wonderful Town, CBS (1951–1952)
  • Author Meets The Critics, DuMont-TV (1952) (Moderator)
  • Youth Wants To Know, NBC (1952) (Jackie Robinson was a panelist on that show)[39]
  • Faye And Skitch, NBC-TV (1953–1954) (with Skitch Henderson)
  • Of All Things, CBS-TV (1956)

TV game show panelist:

  • I've Got A Secret, CBS (1952–1958)
  • What's My Line, CBS (1952)
  • Quick As A Flash, ABC (1953–1954)
  • What's In A Word, CBS (1954)
  • Masquerade Party (1958–1960)


  1. ^ "Faye Emerson – Hollywood Walk of Fame". Walkoffame.com. Retrieved November 25, 2017.
  2. ^ a b "Faye Emerson – Hollywood Star Walk". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 12, 2019.
  3. ^ a b c d O'Dell 1997, p. 90.
  4. ^ a b c Prial, Frank J. (March 11, 1983). "Faye Emerson Is Dead at 65; Actress and Personality". The New York Times. Archived from the original on December 1, 2017.
  5. ^ a b c Hannsberry 2012, p. 112.
  6. ^ a b O'Dell 1997, p. 82.
  7. ^ "Sugar 'n Spice" (PDF). Rochester TV Guide. Rochester, NY: Rochester Publicity Service. March 10, 1951. Retrieved May 12, 2021. (Vol. 1 No.7) Miss Emerson's dynamic radiance again is featured on the video screens of the nation in a series of programs televised three afternoons weekly, (WHAM-TV, Mon., Wed., Fri., 2:45 p.m.)
  8. ^ Hannsberry 2012, pp. 112–113.
  9. ^ "Emerson: Actress Dies". Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles, California. March 11, 1983. p. 23. Retrieved September 2, 2018 – via Newspapers.com. Open access icon (The L.A. Times obituary and several other sources have the wrong year for Faye Emerson's first marriage. Several sources have the wrong year for the birth of her son.)
  10. ^ a b O'Dell 1997, p. 83.
  11. ^ Wead 2004, p. 117.
  12. ^ Hansen 2012, pp. 405–408.
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h "Faye Emerson". Playbill. Retrieved October 12, 2019.
  14. ^ a b O'Dell 1997, p. 85.
  15. ^ a b O'Dell 1997, p. 88.
  16. ^ a b Hansen 2012, pp. 527, 582.
  17. ^ "Paris Cavalcade of Fashions". IMDb. November 11, 1948. Retrieved May 12, 2021.
  18. ^ Blum, Daniel C. (1959). Pictorial history of television (PDF). Philadelphia: Chilton Co., Book Division. OCLC 469857274. Retrieved May 11, 2021. free download
  19. ^ O'Dell, Cary. "TV's First Working Woman". TVparty!. Retrieved May 11, 2021. ...and both Faye Emerson and Arlene Francis, each about to become TV perennials and legends, had already begun making regular TV appearances. Emerson, for example, was hostess of the series "Paris Cavalcade of Fashions" on NBC which began in November of 1948.
  20. ^ Barnes, Mike (October 16, 2019). "Julie Gibson, Singer in 'The Feminine Touch' and 'Hail the Conquering Hero,' Dies at 106". The Hollywood Reporter. Los Angeles: Billboard-Hollywood Reporter Media Group (Valence Media). Retrieved October 16, 2019. Dissatisfied with the roles she was getting, Gibson broke her contract with Paramount and departed for Paris, where she replaced Faye Emerson in a filmed weekly series, Paris Cavalcade of Fashions, for U.S. movie chains.
  21. ^ Becker, Christine (Summer 2004). "Glamor Girl Classed as TV Show Brain: The Body and Mind of Faye Emerson" (PDF). Journal of Popular Culture. 4 (2). University of Notre Dame: 242–260. doi:10.1111/j.0022-3840.2004.00110.x. Christine Becker is an assistant professor in the Department of Film, Television, and Theatre at Notre Dame, where she specializes in film and television history.
  22. ^ a b "1950 – 1951 TV Schedule". Classic TV Database. June 10, 2017. Archived from the original on June 10, 2017. Retrieved May 11, 2021.
  23. ^ "TV HISTORY: PREHISTORIC TELEVISION VOL. 1". KineVideo. THE FAYE EMERSON SHOW (1951 ABC) a 15-minute chatfest with Faye!
  24. ^ a b "The Faye Emerson Show". Nostalgia Central. February 10, 2010. Retrieved May 11, 2021.
  25. ^ Essoe, Gabe (1981). The book of TV lists. Westport, Conn.: Arlington House Publishers. ISBN 0870005197. OCLC 7206018. Retrieved May 12, 2021.
  26. ^ "Faye Emerson". Hollywood Walk of Fame. October 25, 2019. Retrieved May 12, 2021. According to author Gabe Essoe in The Book of TV Lists, on one the show's segments, her low-cut gown slipped and "she exposed her ample self coast to coast."
  27. ^ Rau, Herb (March 21, 1950). "Raund Town". The Miami News. Retrieved September 2, 2010.
  28. ^ O'Brian, Jack (March 23, 1978). "Recalling The Stork". Herald-Journal. Retrieved September 2, 2010.
  29. ^ "tv guide" (PDF). mcny genealogy. March 10, 1951. Retrieved May 11, 2021.
  30. ^ "The Stork Club". Nostalgia Central. November 16, 2010. Retrieved May 11, 2021. The show debuted on 7 July 1950 and ran through to 1955.
  31. ^ "Faye Emerson, first lady of television, dead at 65". United Press International. March 10, 1983. Retrieved October 12, 2019.
  32. ^ a b c O'Dell 1997, p. 87.
  33. ^ Roosevelt, p 311
  34. ^ "20,000 Attend Big Eisenhower Rally". Ventura County Star-Free Press. February 9, 1952. p. 1.
  35. ^ O'Dell 1997, pp. 89, 91.
  36. ^ Kendall, John (March 11, 1983). "Faye Emerson, Actress, F.D.R. Daughter-in-Law, Dies at 65". Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles, California. p. 3 – via Newspapers.com.
  37. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad "Faye Emerson filmography". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. Los Angeles, California: American Film Institute. Archived from the original on October 12, 2019. Retrieved October 12, 2019.
  38. ^ Ellwanger, Jim (July 23–29, 1955). "TV Guide: Lake Ontario Edition". ellwanger.tv. Retrieved May 12, 2021. [5] WHAM-TV (NBC/DuMont) 201 Humboldt Street, Rochester (CUlver 7240)
  39. ^ Kahn, Roger (January 15, 2014). The Era, 1947-1957: When the Yankees, the Giants, and the Dodgers Ruled the World. (Kindle edition): Diversion Books. ISBN 978-0395561553.


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