Hudson, Rochelle (1916–1972)

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Hudson, Rochelle (1916–1972)

American actress . Born Rochelle Elizabeth Hudson in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, on March 6, 1916; died of liver ailment in Palm Desert, California, on January 17, 1972; interred at Montecito Memorial Park; only child of Ollie Lee Hudson (head of the State Employment Bureau in Oklahoma) and Mae (Goddard) Hudson; married Harold Thompson, a story editor and naval reserve officer, in 1939 (divorced 1947); married Richard Hyler (a Los Angeles Times sports writer), in 1948 (divorced 1950); married Charles Brust, a Kansas businessman (divorced); married Robert Mindell, a hotel executive, in 1963 (divorced around 1971).

Selected filmography:

Laugh and Get Rich (1931); Everything's Rosie (1931); The Public Defender (1931); Fanny Foley Herself (1931); Are These Our Children? (1931); Girl Crazy (1932); Hell's Highway (1932); The Savage Girl (1932); She Done Him Wrong (1933); Wild Boys of the Road (1933); Love Is Dangerous(1933); Doctor Bull (1933); Mr. Skitch (1933); Judge Priest (1934); Imitation of Life (1934); The Mighty Barnum (1934); Life Begins at 40 (1935); Les Miserables (1935); Curly Top (1935); Way Down East (1935); Show Them No Mercy (1935); The Music Goes 'Round (1936); The Country Beyond (1936); Poppy Reunion (1936); Woman Wise (1937); That I May Live (1937); She Had to Eat (1937); Born Reckless (1937); Rascals (1938); Mr. Moto Takes a Chance (1938); Storm Over Bengal (1938); Pride of the Navy (1939); Missing Daughters (1939); Convicted Woman (1940); Men Without Souls (1940); Island of Doomed Men (1940); Babies for Sale (1940); Meet Boston Blackie (1941); The Officer and the Lady (1941); Rubber Racketeers (1942); Queen of Broadway (1943); Bush Pilot (1947); Devil's Cargo (1948); Rebel Without a Cause (1955); Strait-Jacket (1964); The Night Walker (1965); Dr. Terror's Gallery of Horrors (The Blood Suckers or Return from the Past, 1967).

Rochelle Hudson was born in Oklahoma City in 1916 and began dancing lessons at the age of three. By age six, she was reciting verse at school pageants. In 1927, her father Ollie Hudson, a direct descendant of explorer Henry Hudson, suffered a nervous breakdown; the prescription was a move to sunny California.

When the family arrived in Van Nuys in 1928, Rochelle began studying with Ernest Belcher, father of dancer Marge Champion . Before long, however, her parents separated, and her father moved to Kansas where he ran a cattle ranch. Rochelle remained with her mother Mae Hudson , who was pushing her daughter toward a film career. She moved the household to Hollywood to be closer to the studios.

Thirteen-year-old Rochelle was initially signed by Fox, which, thinking she might develop into another Janet Gaynor , provided her with singing lessons but little else. Six months later, when Fox dropped her option, she signed with RKO and made her first film appearance in Laugh and Get Rich (1931), a comedy starring Edna May Oliver . Hudson's first lead role was in Are These Our Children? (1931) opposite

Eric Linden, and cinema exhibitors named her Wampas Baby Star of 1931. But RKO was fearful that the public would not accept a 15-year-old in romantic leads, so they did the unusual: they moved her date of birth back two years, and the publicity department claimed she was born in 1914. Even so, they continued to cast her in small roles, and Hudson began to freelance at her contract's end.

She made three movies at Fox with Will Rogers, Doctor Bull, Mr. Skitch, and Judge Priest. She was then loaned to Warner Bros. for Harold Teen, opposite Hal LeRoy. Earning the title "champion loaner-outer," she then went to Universal to play the daughter of Claudette Colbert in Imitation of Life. At Fox, Hudson made The Mighty Barnum and played Cosette in Les Miserables to Fredric March's Jean Valjean. She then played Shirley Temple (Black) 's older sister in Curly Top and sang "The Simple Things in Life."

In 1935, when Darryl F. Zanuck took control of Twentieth Century-Fox, Hudson was retained as a contractee, and her first assignment was to replace Gaynor as Anna Moore in the remake of Way Down East. After a few successes, she was loaned to Paramount to play W.C. Fields' daughter in Poppy. But Hudson was growing up and becoming too candid in interviews; Zanuck began to favor new contractee Loretta Young . Hudson was consigned mostly to B movies during the 1930s and 1940s. Her final role for Fox was as an "aviatrix" in Peter Lorre's Mr. Moto Takes a Chance, released in 1938. Though she signed with Columbia in 1939, the B movies kept on coming. Hudson was never comfortable with Hollywood's image of her. "They kept me sweet and innocent for years," she said later. "When I finally convinced them I was no longer a teenager I was immediately cast as a chippy, which I remained until I quit."

In 1939, she married story editor Harold Thompson, then a naval reserve officer. During World War II, from 1942 to 1945, Thompson and Hudson worked for Naval Intelligence, making "fishing" trips to Mexico and other Central American countries to engage in espionage. Sent to observe German activity in those areas, the Thompsons located a large cache of high-test aviation gas hidden by German agents in Baja, California. Following the war, the couple moved to Canada, living in Vancouver, until their divorce in 1947. She married sports writer Richard Hyler the following year.

As her film roles began to dry up, Hudson appeared on stage in Burlesque (1948) with Bert Lahr, was seen in the television series "Racket Squad" (1951), and was a regular on "That's My Boy," during the 1954–55 season. Of her last films, Rebel Without a Cause (1955), with James Dean and Natalie Wood , and Strait-Jacket (1964), with Joan Crawford , are the most notable.

In 1956, Hudson moved from Hollywood to Arizona where she ran a 10,000-acre ranch. She then moved to Tulsa and worked for a petroleum company, instructing executives in communication. She married twice more, and divorced twice more. In 1967, Hudson finally settled in Palm Desert, California, where she ran her own successful real estate firm until her death in 1972.


Katz, Ephraim. The Film Encyclopedia. NY: Harper-Collins, 1994.

Lamparski, Richard. Whatever Became of …?. 3rd series. NY: Crown, 1990.

Roberts, Barrie. "Rochelle Hudson: Square Peg in a Round Hole," in Classic Images. No. 272. February 1998.