Sunday, August 28, 2011

Helen Ericson (Courageous Avenger)

Helen Ericson actually sees quite of bit of action for a no-budget western heroine in Courageous Avenger (1935). The fiance of hero Johnny Mack Brown, Helen can only watch as her brother (stuntman Wally West) is killed by Warner Richmond and his gang before suffering the indignity of actually being kidnapped herself by said Mr. Richmond. Johnny saves her, of course, but it is touch and go for a moment there -- what with the endless riding to and fro endemic to these cheezy independents -- before the happy couple can get to the altar and then off on their long-awaited honeymoon.

When I say "independent," I probably should clarify that Supreme Pictures, the producer of Courageous Avenger, was an A.W. Hackel company that would merge with Republic Pictures later that year. From 1936 onwards, the Bob Steele and Johnny Mack Brown westerns would thus be released by Herbert Yates' upstart Republic, awarding these films a perceived veneer that they could not really live up to.

Helen Ericson (1915-1984), meanwhile, had worked in a five and dime store in her hometown of Worcester, MA, when her actor brother, Frank, persuaded the producers of the New York revival of “Of Thee I Sing” (1933) to put her in the chorus of that successful show. She appeared in the original Broadway production of “As Thousands Cheer” before casting director Max Arnow brought her to the attention of first Warner Bros. then Fox, who signed her to a contract. After playing mostly the typical starlet roles, she was chosen as “Light” in the Shirley Temple version of The Blue Bird (1940), but that Wizard of Oz wannabe proved less than popular and she retired to marry Chicago fur magnate Philip Berman, with whom she would become a mother of two and a grandmother of five.

No comments:

Post a Comment