Helen Twelvetrees ~ The Long Suffering Actress

Helen Twelvetrees

Helen Twelvetrees was a popular 1930s star who suffered from alcoholism and took her own life

 She was born Helen Marie Jurgens on December 25, 1908 in Brooklyn, New York. Her father, William Jurgens, worked for a newspaper. Sadly in 1919 her younger brother died in a house fire. Helen began modeling for illustrator George Bradshaw Crandall when she was a teenager. After high school she enrolled at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. At the age of eighteen she eloped with Clark Twelvetrees, a fellow student. She appeared in a few plays and was offered a contract at Fox Studios in Hollywood. In 1929 she made her film debut in The Ghost Talks and was chosen to be a Wampas Baby Star. The following year she won rave reviews for her performance in Her Man. Her marriage to Clark ended in 1930. During their divorce trial she claimed he was an alcoholic who had beaten her several times. Helen married real estate agent Frank Woody on April 21, 1931. The couple had a son named Frank Jr. She starred in a series of critically acclaimed films including Millie, State's Attorney, and A Woman Of Experience.

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The blonde haired beauty became known for playing suffering women and was called "the perfect ingenue". By 1936 her marriage was over and her career was in trouble. Helen went to Australia to star in the race-horse film Thoroughbred. Her final movie was the 1939 drama Unmarried. In 1941 she appeared in the Broadway show Boudoir. Unfortunately it closed after only eleven performances. Depressed over her failing career she began to drink a lot. She married Conrad Payne, an Air Force Captain, in 1947. Helen returned to the stage in a 1951 production of A Streetcar named Desire. She and her husband moved to Middletown, Pennsylvania. Their marriage was tumultuous and Conrad became abusive. Helen's alcoholism got worse and she developed a painful kidney disorder. Tragically on February 13, 1958 she committed suicide by taking an overdose of pills. She was only forty-nine years old. Helen was cremated and buried at Middletown Cemetery in Middletown, Pennsylvania.

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