September 17, 1907
Beaumont, Texas, U.S.
|Died||October 7, 1999 (aged 92)|
|Resting place||Oak Grove Cemetery, Nacogdoches County, Texas, U.S.|
(m. 1925; div. 1934)
(m. 1935; div. 1938)
(m. 1946; died 1976)
Vinson was born in Beaumont, Texas, the daughter of oil man Edward Rulfs. She was a tall and distinguished-looking woman with brown eyes and naturally curly hair. 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, where her credits included Los Angeles (1927), Death Takes a Holiday (1931), Berlin (1931), and The Fatal Alibi (1932). 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."
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), when she played the wife of Gary Cooper's character and the rival of Anna Sten's, 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's characters. Another standout 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 that of Helen Draque in The Thin Man Goes Home. Vinson's film career ended in 1945.
Private life and death
Vinson married Harry Nelson Vickerman, a carpet manufacturer, in Houston, Texas, in May 1925. They divorced on February 7, 1934. In 1935, she married Fred Perry, a British tennis champion. They lived in England before moving to Hollywood. They divorced in 1938, after which she married Donald Hardenbrook, a "wealthy New York socialite".
Away from film-making and following her retirement, Vinson 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 loved horses and had a private and personal mount named Arrabella.
- Jewel Robbery (1932) – Marianne
- Two Against the World (1932) – Corinne Walton
- The Crash (1932) – Esther Parrish (uncredited)
- They Call It Sin (1932) – Enid Hollister
- I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (1932) – Helen
- Lawyer Man (1932) – Barbara Bentley
- Second Hand Wife (1933) – Betty Cavendish
- Grand Slam (1933) – Lola Starr
- The Little Giant (1933) – Polly Cass
- Midnight Club (1933) – Iris Whitney
- The Power and the Glory (1933) – Eve Borden
- The Kennel Murder Case (1933) – Doris Delafield
- As Husbands Go (1934) – Lucille Lingard
- The Life of Vergie Winters (1934) – Laura Shadwell
- Let's Try Again (1934) – Ann (Credits) / Nan Blake
- Gift of Gab (1934) – Nurse
- The Captain Hates the Sea (1934) – Janet Grayson
- Broadway Bill (1934) – Margaret
- A Notorious Gentleman (1935) – Nina Thorne
- The Wedding Night (1935) – Dora Barrett
- Private Worlds (1935) – Claire Monet
- Age of Indiscretion (1935) – Eve Lenhart
- The Tunnel (1935) – Varlia Lloyd
- King of the Damned (1935) – Anna Courvin
- Love in Exile (1936) – Countess Xandra St. Aurion
- Reunion (1936) – Gloria Sheridan
- Vogues of 1938 (1937) – Mary Curson
- Live, Love and Learn (1937) – Lily Chalmers
- In Name Only (1939) – Suzanne
- Married and in Love (1940) – Doris Wilding
- Curtain Call (1940) – Charlotte Morley
- Enemy Agent (1940) – Irene Hunter
- Beyond Tomorrow (1940) – Arlene Terry
- Torrid Zone (1940) – Gloria Anderson
- Bowery Boy (1940) – Peggy Winters
- Nothing But the Truth (1941) – Linda Graham
- Chip Off the Old Block (1944) – Glory Marlow Jr.
- The Lady and the Monster (1944) – Chloe Donovan
- Are These Our Parents? (1944) – Myra Salisbury
- The Thin Man Goes Home (1945) – Helena Draque (final film role)
- Bergan, Ronald (November 11, 1999). "Helen Vinson". The Guardian. England, London. p. 25. Retrieved November 29, 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
- Lentz, Harris M., III (2000). Obituaries in the Performing Arts, 1999: Film, Television, Radio, Theatre, Dance, Music, Cartoons and Pop Culture. McFarland. p. 225. ISBN 978-0-7864-0919-8. Retrieved November 29, 2019.
- "Success Story Of Tennis Star's Fiancee". The Evening Sun. Maryland, Baltimore. August 30, 1935. p. 24. Retrieved November 29, 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
- "We would like to marry". The Boston Globe. Massachusetts, Boston. Associated Press. August 29, 1935. p. 4. Retrieved November 29, 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Helen Vinson". Internet Broadway Database. The Broadway League. Archived from the original on October 22, 2016. Retrieved November 29, 2019.
- "Actress sues over 'nagging'". The San Francisco Examiner. California, San Francisco. February 8, 1934. p. 7. Retrieved November 29, 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Close-Up of a Real Trooper". Oakland Tribune. March 17, 1935. p. 70.
- "For Women Only". Port Arthur News. November 26, 1939. p. 47.
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