Faye Emerson

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Faye Emerson
Faye Emerson 1951.jpg
Emerson in 1951
Faye Margaret Emerson

(1917-07-08)July 8, 1917
DiedMarch 9, 1983(1983-03-09) (aged 65)
Alma materSan Diego State College
Years active1941–1961
Spouse(s)William Crawford (m. 1941; div. 1942)
Elliott Roosevelt (m. 1944; div. 1950)
Skitch Henderson (m. 1950; div. 1957)
Children1 (with Crawford)[1]
Parent(s)Lawrence L. Emerson
Jean Emerson

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 Bros. films. 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 the third wife of Colonel Elliott Roosevelt, son of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

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.[2][3]

Early life[edit]

Born in Elizabeth, Louisiana, Emerson was the daughter of Lawrence L. and Jean Emerson. The family moved frequently during her early years, living in New Mexico and in three cities in Texas. Following her parents' divorce, she went to Chicago in 1924 to live with her father and stepmother. Later, she went to San Diego, California, to live with her mother. She became interested in dramatics during her two years[4] in the Academy of San Luis Rey[5] and went on to attend Point Loma High School and, for one year, San Diego State College.[4]


Emerson appeared 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 another mystery, Crime by Night. A film she made with Van Johnson in 1942, Murder in the Big House, was re-released under a new title later in the decade after Emerson began to make a name for herself in a new medium, television.

Emerson's Broadway debut came in 1948 in The Play's the Thing. Her other Broadway credits included Back to Methuselah (1958), Protective Custody (1956), The Heavenly Twins (1955), and Parisienne (1950).[6]

In 1948, she made a move to TV 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 lasted only 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.[7][8]

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 (1953–54). 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" [9] (although that title was sometimes applied to others, including Ruth Lyons and Lucille Ball).


Emerson married her first husband, William Crawford, a naval aviator, in 1941.[10] However, Emerson's activities in the movie industry were not conducive to a stable marriage,[citation needed] and though it produced one son, William Crawford, Jr., the marriage was over by the time Emerson 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, 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. 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.[12]:527, 582

The next year, she married band leader and conductor Lyle "Skitch" Henderson in the same town; the couple 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",[13] however, the teen-age incident happened before Carson's Tonight Show, which didn't begin until 1962, and Emerson had divorced Henderson in 1957.

Retirement and death[edit]

Emerson moved to Spain and spent the rest of her life in seclusion. She died in 1983 at age 65 from stomach cancer[3] in Deià, Majorca,[14] where she had lived since 1975.[15]



Short subjects[edit]

  • At the Stroke of Twelve (1941) - Miss LaMond (uncredited)
  • Women at War (1943) - Anastasia 'Stormy' Hart
  • Food and Magic (1943) - Girl in Audience (uncredited)


  1. ^ "Faye Emerson - The Private Life and Times of Faye Emerson. Faye Emerson Pictures". Glamourgirlsofthesilverscreen.com. Retrieved 25 November 2017.
  2. ^ "Faye Emerson - Hollywood Walk of Fame". Walkoffame.com. Retrieved 25 November 2017.
  3. ^ a b "Faye Emerson - Hollywood Star Walk - Los Angeles Times". projects.latimes.com. Retrieved 25 November 2017.
  4. ^ a b O'Dell, Cary (1997). Women Pioneers in Television: Biographies of Fifteen Industry Leaders. McFarland. pp. 81–92. ISBN 9780786401673. Retrieved 3 September 2018.
  5. ^ Hannsberry, Karen Burroughs (2012). Femme Noir: Bad Girls of Film. McFarland. ISBN 9780786491599. Retrieved 3 September 2018.
  6. ^ "Faye Emerson". Internet Broadway Database. The Broadway League. Archived from the original on 3 September 2018. Retrieved 3 September 2018.
  7. ^ Rau, Herb (March 21, 1950). "Raund Town". The Miami News. Retrieved September 2, 2010.
  8. ^ O'Brian, Jack (March 23, 1978). "Recalling The Stork". Herald-Journal. Retrieved September 2, 2010.
  9. ^ "Faye Emerson, first lady of television, dead at 65". Upi.com. Retrieved 25 November 2017.
  10. ^ "Emerson: Actress Dies". The Los Angeles Times. California, Los Angeles. March 11, 1983. p. 23. Retrieved September 2, 2018 – via Newspapers.com. open access
  11. ^ Wead, Doug (2004). All the Presidents' Children: Triumph and Tragedy in the Lives of America's First Families. Simon and Schuster. p. 117. ISBN 9780743446334. Retrieved 3 September 2018.
  12. ^ a b Hansen, Chris (2012). Enfant Terrible: The Times and Schemes of General Elliott Roosevelt. Able Baker Press. pp. 405–408. ISBN 978-0615-66892-5.
  13. ^ Roosevelt, p 311
  14. ^ Prial, Frank J. (11 March 1983). "FAYE EMERSON IS DEAD AT 65; ACTRESS AND PERSONALITY". Nytimes.com. Retrieved 25 November 2017.
  15. ^ Kendall, John (March 11, 1983). "Faye Emerson, Actress, F.D.R. Daughter-in-Law, Dies at 65". The Los Angeles Times. California, Los Angeles. p. 3. Retrieved September 2, 2018 – via Newspapers.com. open access


  • Hansen, Chris. Enfant Terrible: The Times and Schemes of General Elliott Roosevelt. Able Baker Press, 2012. ISBN 978-0615-66892-5
  • Roosevelt, James. My Parents: A Differing View. Playboy Press, 1976.

External links[edit]