Helen Burgess & Her Untimely Death

Helen Burgess

Helen Burgess was a promising 1930s film starlet who died young from pneumonia

She was born Helen Margarite Burgess on April 26, 1916 in Portland, Oregon. When she was a child her family lived in Seattle, Washington and Los Angeles, California. Sadly her father, Frank Burgess, passed away when she was a teenager. Helen attended Hollywood high school but she was not a good student and frequently skipped classes. In 1934 she and her older sister, Stella, enrolled in Clark's Los Angeles Dramatic School. She made her stage debut at the Spotlight theater in Los Angeles. A talent agent saw her and offered her a contract at Paramount. Then Cecil B. DeMille asked her to audition for his new film. After several screen tests she was given a supporting role in his 1936 Western The Plainsman starring Gary Cooper. Her performance got positive reviews and she was voted one of the most promising new actresses of the year. Cecil B. DeMille said she was "the finest natural actress I have ever seen".

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Helen had a starring role in the drama A Doctor's Diary and appeared in the low-budget film King Of Gamblers. On January 27, 1937 she eloped with Herbert Rutherford, her piano instructor. They separated a week later and the marriage was annulled. She claimed that he had only married her to "spite" another woman. During the Spring of 1937 she started filming Night Of Mystery. Helen caught a cold and collapsed on the set. Her illness quickly turned into lobar pneumonia and she was placed in an oxygen tent. Tragically on April 7, 1937 she died at the young age of twenty. A few weeks earlier she had told a reporter "I know death. I have spent many uncomfortable hours in the last few weeks thinking of death." She was buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California. Her final movie Night Of Mystery was released one month after she died.

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Helen Burgess Dead