Helen Vinson

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Helen Vinson
Helen Vinson in Beyond Tomorrow.jpg
in Beyond Tomorrow (1940)
Born Helen Rulfs
(1907-09-17)September 17, 1907
Beaumont, Texas, U.S.
Died October 7, 1999(1999-10-07) (aged 92)
Chapel Hill, North Carolina, U.S.
Years active 1932–1945
  • Harry Vickerman
    (married 1925–1930)
  • Fred Perry (married 1935–1940)
  • Donald Hardenbrook
    (married 1946–1976)

Helen Vinson (born Helen Rulfs, September 17, 1907 – October 7, 1999) was an American film actress, who appeared in 40 films between 1932 and 1945.

Early life[edit]

Vinson was born Helen Rulfs in Beaumont, Texas. She was a tall and distinguished-looking woman with brown eyes and naturally curly hair. Miss Vinson's father was an oil man. Her personal life included a passion for horses she developed during her youth. She studied at the University of Texas at Austin.


In Austin, she met Mrs. March Culmore, director of the Houston, Texas Little Theater. Culmore took Helen as a pupil and soon the young woman was playing leads with The Little Theater Group. From Texas, she moved quickly to Broadway. Her first success in New York City was in a play called Los Angeles. A succession of performances followed and led to a contract with Warner Bros. Later, she regretted her quick leap to Hollywood and motion pictures. She lamented, "If I'd stayed in New York longer, I'd be getting a much bigger salary out here now."

Film career[edit]

in The Little Giant (1933)

Vinson's screen career often featured her in roles in which she played the part of the other woman or (pre-Code) loose women with active romantic lives. Her first film role was Jewel Robbery (1932), which starred William Powell and Kay Francis. She appeared as Doris Delafield in The Kennel Murder Case, which starred Powell as Philo Vance. One of her memorable roles was in The Wedding Night (1935). She played the wife of Gary Cooper and the rival of Anna Sten, in a story about the Connecticut tobacco fields. Another performance was in the RKO film In Name Only (1939), in which she was cast as the treacherous friend of Carole Lombard, Kay Francis and Cary Grant. Another stand-out role for Vinson was as an undercover federal agent posing as a femme fatale opposite Richard Cromwell in Universal Pictures's anti-Nazi action drama entitled, Enemy Agent (1940). She followed that role with the role of Helen Draque in The Thin Man Goes Home. Vinson's film career ended in 1945.

For her contribution to the motion picture industry, Vinson had a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1560 Vine Street.

Private life and death[edit]

Away from film-making and following her retirement, Vinson's activities made frequent trips to New York City to see Broadway shows, visited friends in her home state of Texas, and enjoyed the Mardi Gras in New Orleans. She was married to noted tennis player Fred Perry. She loved horses and had a private and personal mount named Arrabella.

Helen Vinson died in Chapel Hill, North Carolina in 1999, aged 92.

Partial filmography[edit]


  • "Close-Up of a Real Trooper". Oakland Tribune. March 17, 1935. p. 70. 
  • "For Women Only". Port Arthur News. November 26, 1939. p. 47. 

External links[edit]