Time Line


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.

Helen Mack
Nov. 13, 1913 - Aug. 13, 1986


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   since 9/20/03

Updated: 12/07/2014

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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.



1907: 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.

Starred in "Silent Witness", released February 7th. Helen was in California for this movie. Presumed that she moved there shortly after "The Struggle" was filmed. This was her first film for Fox Studios.

Starred in "While Paris Sleeps", released May 8th. This was Helen's last film under contract with Fox Studios. Note, some of the best publicity shots of Helen were while she was under contract to Fox studios. Check out some of those pictures on the Pictures Page.

Helen had a nice part in "The California Trail" with Buck Jones. Production for "The California Trail" went from November 12th to November 21st for Columbia Pictures.

Production for "Sweepings" started December 12th.

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.

Starred in "Sweepings", which premiered March 23 in New York City. Helen's first film for RKO. Helen would work for RKO seven more times between 1932 and 1936.

 "The California Trail" was released March 24th.

"Sweepings" released April 14th nation-wide.

"Melody Cruise", an RKO production, was released June 16th. Helen had a major role in this film. I consider this one of her best films.

Helen starred in "Blind Adventure", which was released August 18th and was another RKO production.

Helen starred in the sequel to "King Kong", titled "Son of Kong" for RKO pictures.  It was in production from March 31st until August 22nd.

Helen starred in "Christopher Bean", which was released November 17th. This was the only MGM production Helen worked for.

Helen had a bit part in "Fargo Express", which was released November 20th. This was a KBS production. The movie was OK, but Helen's part was non-existent.

"Son of Kong" was released nationwide on December 22nd. This was one of Helen's best films, as she was one of the leads throughout the entire film. I highly recommend this film. Helen sings "Runaway Blues" in this film.

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.

Helen starred in "All of Me", which was released February 1st.

"Kiss and Make Up" was released July 13th. This was the first film that Helen starred with Carey Grant. However, they never had a scene together. This film is also considered one of Carey's better films. Unfortunately it is not in print.

"You Belong To Me" was released September 8th. This film has Helen singing "Sweepin' The Clouds Away," a song written by Sam Coslow. However, according to IMDB, it was dubbed, which I take it to mean that someone else's voice is heard singing that song, not Helen's.

"The Lemon Drop Kid" was released September 28th.  This film was remade in 1951 with Bob Hope.

"College Rhythm" was released November 23rd.

1935: Helen starred in four films - one for Paramount Pictures, and three for RKO.  Helen also married Charles Irwin, Fox West Coast Theatre executive .

"Four Hours To Kill" was released April 11th. This was a Paramount Pictures film.

"Captain Hurricane," an RKO production, was released April 25th. Helen has a key, but small role in this film. The working title for this film was "Cape Cod."

"She" was in production from March 12th to May. It was released July 12. In 1949 it was re-released in a double billing with another RKO production, "The Last Days Of Pompeii." This film is a favorite among many cult film buffs. There were some well known actors in this film, including Randolf Scott and Nigel Bruce.

"The Return Of Peter Grimm" was released September 13th. It was a re-make of the silent film by the same name.

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.

"The Milky Way" was released February 7th.  This was a Paramount Pictures production. Initially actress Sally Blane was cast in the role that Helen played. The movie was originally cast for a whole different group of actors and actresses. Luckily Harold Lloyd and Helen were cast, instead. This is a great film, and Helen has a good part.

Starred, produced, and directed an episode of the Lux Radio Theater, titled "The Virginian" on November 2nd.

1937: Helen divorced Charles Irwin some time during or after 1937.  Helen was kept busy in 1937, working in six films.

Helen returns to Columbia pictures to film "I Promise To Pay." It was released April 21st.

"You Can't Buy Luck" marks Helen's return to RKO pictures. The movie was released on April 30th.

Helen makes an uncredited appearance in Paramount's "A Doctor's Diary", which was released May 16th.

Paramount Pictures "The Last Train From Madrid" was released June 18th.

Helen starred in her last RKO film, "Fit For A King" with Joe. E. Brown. This, by far, is one of the funniest films that I've seen, and one of Helen's best as a comedic actress and damsel in distress. It was released September 1st.

Helen works in Republic Picture's "The Wrong Road", a drama. Helen does good work here, and she is in the movie throughout. However, Helen's dramatic talent isn't showcased until "The King Of The Newsboys". The movie was released October 11th.

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.


Copyright 2003. All information and material on this website is the property of Daryl Curtis. Use of this material may not be used without the permission of the owner.