||The following is a loosely pieced together history of what is known. There is some speculation about dates, but basically this is Helen's life in a nutshell. As more pieces fall into place, the details will be added.||
Visitor since 9/20/03
Author's Note: This biography is a work in progress. I have a lot of notes, and am in the process of compiling them. I am still trying to fill in the gaps, of which there is a lot of them.
Helen's mother (?), Regina, comes to the United States with Helen's
grandfather - only 16 - Regina's brother is in New York
1907 - 1912: Regina meets William McDougall (from Illinois), marries, and gets pregnant.
1913: Helen McDougall is born in Rock Island, Illinois
1913 - 1921: At some point Helen's family moves to New York City.
1921: Helen enrolled at Professional Children's School in New York City. Parents probably had some money in order to put Helen into a specialized school. Must have also recognized Helen's abilities.
1921 - 1929: Helen is a student at PCS. She is also cast in several silent films, vaudeville shows, and Broadway plays. What was her life like then?
1929 - 1931: What did Helen do in those two years? She turned 18 in 1931, and presumably was able to be signed to contracts to star in movies as an actress.
1931: First movie part as an actress in D.W. Griffith's last film, "The Struggle". Release December 10th. This film was shot in New York.
1932: Helen's career as a leading film actress began with "The California Trail," and the rest, as they say, is history.
1933: This year, by far, was one of Helen's busiest years as an actress. She was in seven films, half of them for RKO pictures. She received quite a lot of publicity as an up-and-coming star in the press - and deservedly so.
1934: This year marked the year that Helen starred in six consecutive films for Paramount Pictures. Over her career Helen made pictures eleven times for Paramount.
1935: Helen starred in four films - one for Paramount Pictures, and three for RKO. Helen also married Charles Irwin, Fox West Coast Theatre executive .
1936: Helen gave birth to a son some time after the release of her only movie in 1936, and her work on "The Lux Radio Theater". Obviously she took maternity leave. At the time Helen lived in Beverly Hills, California. Helen also started working in radio, possibly for the first time in her career. At some point, possibly in 1936, or earlier, she met Thomas McAvity, who was a producer in radio for NBC. Not sure when he started producing, but was a producer until at least 1946.
1937: Helen divorced Charles Irwin some time during or after 1937. Helen was kept busy in 1937, working in six films.
1940: Married Thomas McAvity in Santa Barbara, California. She was 27. He was 33.
1941: Started to work in radio seriously, as a producer and director. Still did some acting in radio.
1941 - 1945: Starred in 3 more films.
1946 - 1951: From 1946 until 1951 Helen produced and directed such well known radio programs as "The Affairs of Ann Scotland", "A Date With Judy", "The Adventures Of The Saint", and "Richard Diamond, Private Detective" among others.
Helen moved to New York and lived on Park Avenue in 1951.
1956: Thomas moved up the ladder, becoming Vice President in Charge of Television Network for NBC by 1956.
1960: Helen gets her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
1966: Helen and Eleanor Harris Howard published "Mating Dance", a comedy performed on Broadway in 1965
1967: Co-wrote an episode for the TV show "Daniel Boone"
1969: Co-wrote an episode for the TV show "Julia"
1971: Helen published a successful comedy play, "Everybody Has To Be Somebody". Thomas, her husband, died.
1971 - 1976: Helen moved to California with her mother. Not sure when this occurred.
1976: Helen's mother died.
1976 - 1986: Helen was a free lance writer and semi-retired.
1986: Helen dies from pancreatic cancer.
Helen's Memorial Plaque, which reads:
In Memory of Helen McDougall McAvity
John & Tommy's loving mother, and -- in order of their appearance her beloved grandchildren, Mary Lindsay, Gowan, Tom III and Lydia
1913 - 1986
Helen's memorial is located at Westwood Memorial Park, Westwood, California, Lot 200, Row 3 - West, Grave 3.
* Many thanks to Roger Sinclair for the photo, and Bob (Burbank1000) for the much sought after information.
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