Faye Emerson

Faye Emerson

Emerson in 1951
Born Faye Margaret Emerson
(1917-07-08)July 8, 1917
Elizabeth, Louisiana, U.S.
Died March 9, 1983(1983-03-09) (aged 65)
Deya, Majorca, Spain
Occupation Actress
Years active 1941-1961
Spouse(s) Skitch Henderson (1950-1957)
Elliott Roosevelt (1944-1950)
William Crawford (1938-1942)
Children William W. Crawford III (b. 1940)[1]

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 Brothers 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.

Early life

Emerson was born to Lawrence and Emma (née Smythe) Emerson in the tiny community of Elizabeth, Louisiana. She moved with her mother to San Diego before World War II, where she took up acting and by 1940 was a Hollywood starlet .


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.

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.[2][3]

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" [4] (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 1938. However, Faye's activities in the movie industry were not conducive to a stable marriage, and though it produced one son, William Crawford, Jr., the marriage was over by the time Faye 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, Faye 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. In December 1944, Hughes and Meyer provided the funding and airplanes for Faye and Elliott's marriage at the rim of the Grand Canyon. When Elliott went back to Europe, he named his reconnaissance aircraft "My Faye".[5]

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.[6]

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 that "after an incident involving some teen-age girls he (Skitch) was dropped from Johnny Carson's Tonight TV show and his career went into eclipse. Faye's marriage to Skitch hit the skids. She didn't have much luck in her married life, but she endures, and we think of her fondly."[7]

Retirement and death

Emerson moved to Spain and spent the rest of her life in seclusion. She died in 1983, aged 65, from stomach cancer in Deià, Majorca.[8]



Short subjects


  1. http://www.glamourgirlsofthesilverscreen.com/show/83/Faye+Emerson/index.html
  2. Rau, Herb (March 21, 1950). "Raund Town". The Miami News. Retrieved September 2, 1950. Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  3. O'Brian, Jack (March 23, 1978). "Recalling The Stork". Herald-Journal. Retrieved September 2, 2010.
  4. http://www.upi.com/Archives/1983/03/10/Faye-Emerson-first-lady-of-television-dead-at-65/6926416120400/
  5. Hansen, pp 405-08
  6. Hansen, pp 527, 582
  7. Roosevelt, p 311
  8. http://www.nytimes.com/1983/03/11/obituaries/faye-emerson-is-dead-at-65-actress-and-personality.html


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