Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Rerun Week: Jinx Falkenberg (1940's)

Hey guys! I'm on vacation in Jamaica, but She Was a Bird never sleeps! I'll be rerunning some posts from months and years past that are just as fresh as when I wrote 'em! I hope you are entertained (possibly for the first, possibly for the second) time by these archived items! Next week I'll be back with news from the sunny Caribbean! Take care!

This post originally appeared on the blog June 19, 2012

Good morning! I think I've told you on several occasions about the wild abandon with which I gorge myself on library materials. It's not my fault! Working in a library for me is a little like a chocoholic getting a gig at Godiva, but I do have my moments of responsible book-loan-ership from time to time. Case in point, yesterday, returning to work after my first day back from vacation, I realized I had not one, not two, but THREE books due back to Interlibrary Loan! Sadly, I never got a chance to read Harper's Bazaar Beauty Book (1959) or Here's to You, Miss Teen (1960), but I was bound and determined to read the third of the three right then, right there,  to justify all the trouble the good people in the ILL department spent on my behalf, borrowing the book from the University of Georgia's library collection. And thanks to a slo-o-o-o-ow shift at the telephone reference desk, I was able to start and finish Jinx, by Jinx Falkenburg, all at one go!

Could she be cuter?
Jinx Falkenburg was a cover girl and USO tour favorite from the late thirties' through the end of WWII. Born in Barcelona in 1919 to a pair of American expats, Eugenia "Jinx" Lincoln Falkenburg spent a peripatetic youth in several Spanish speaking countries, winning championship level titles in youth swimming and tennis in Chile, before her family set down roots in Southern California in the early 1930's. Through her continued interest in tennis, she and her family became friends with the movie star likes of a recently-arrived and completely-unknown Errol Flynn and Paulette Goddard (of Chaplin movie fame). With her athletic, 5'8'' figure and flashing blue eyes, it wasn't long before she was discovered by photographer Paul Hesse while lunching with a friend at the MGM commissary. Almost accidentally, by her own account, Jinx became a top cover girl overnight (you can see an example of the forties' magazine cover style I'm talking, complete with Jinx and a red white and blue color scheme, here). She was named the first "Miss Rheingold" for the brewery company in 1940 and appeared on billboards all over America. But don't think it was all champagne and caviar...on one of her first big modeling shoots, she fell thirty-two feet through a roof and landed in the hospital for a month! Good Lord! The whole of this is told in such a whirlwind of conversational prose that I'm still not sure of the chronology, but you get the idea. All this happens in the period in the book you could call "B.T.": "before Tex".

Just as she was starting work in her first Broadway play, an Al Jolson production in which she had a few walk-on lines as a cowgirl, Jinx met newspaperman Tex McCrary, and against alllllll the advice of friends, fell head over heels in love. And Lord can you tell it by the way she writes it! For fifty pages, there's little mention of anything besides the back and forth struggle of love's labour lost. They spent the next year or so trying to decide whether or not they would get married before McCrary joined the service. Still noncommital, Tex went off to fight in the war and insisted they should see other people. Jinx pulled her pretty hair and despaired for two years, had a part in the Rita Hayworth movie Cover Girl, then decided to support the troops in a USO tour that included actor Pat O'Brien.

Jinx getting off the plane in the Chinese leg of the journey. LOOK. AT. HER NAME. ON THE DRESS.

Jinx and Tex eventually met up in Cairo in the last year of the war ("The sequined dress, ermine coat, and embroidered Indian mules were absolutely the best I coudl salvage from my war-torn CBI wardrobe. For every sequin there was supposed to be on the dress, three were missing," she begins the chapter) The newly rekindled couple decided "the very next day we see each other, we'll be married", and six months later to the day, Jinx became Mrs. John Reagan McCrary. How sweet! The moon over Cairo! The sequined dress! The romantic semi-engagement!

Tex and the airplane from which he did all kind of crazy parachute missions (Source)

Jinx, in one of her habitual crop-top and skirt ensembles, re-enacts the moment Tex called to tell her he was home and they were getting married for Life magazine.
The happy couple-- she's got flowers in her hair, he's got an eyepatch. From Life magazine.
Tex and Jinx went on to a civilian life that included pioneering work in helping create the talk-show-with-interviews genre. In 1946, they started on radio with the waggishly titled "Hi, Jinx!". By the early fifties', their husband-and-wife team could be heard on two radio shows, a television show, and a weekly newspaper column. Ain't that success? Here's an ad featuring the first of their two sons (Paddy is pictured below, while Kevin would come along a year or two later) and a wide array of gorgeous early 1950's ties. Can you see the print on Jinx's dress is made up of tiny sailing flags? She always dresses LOUD but it's adorable on her:

The autobiography stops in 1951 with the line "To be Continued (that's how we feel about everything we do" and information I could find online about the McCrarys later lives was sparse. They seem to have separated sometime in the 80's but did not divorce, passing away almost exactly a month apart from each other in 2003. All in all, I can't say I was disappointed with the book, but I sure wish there was a companion volume so I could see what happened in the next couple decades of their lives. Jinx herself is just too magnetic of a personality to have faded into the kind of obscurity. I'll have to do some magazine digging here in the Periodicals department and tell you what I can dig up.
A brooch Jinx wore for her 1941 Life cover story
Do you have any way-too-unfairly-obscure forties' celebrities you wish were more well known? You know I do!! See you tomorrow.

PS: Man alive! After writing two thirds of this post, I found out that the youngest McCrary son, Kevin, was recently featured on an episode of Hoarders! As in last year! How sad. Has anybody seen this episode? Some screen captures here.

Further reading:
See an exhaustive timeline of events in Jinx's life here
See a Miss Rheingold ad featuring Jinx here
See a joint obit written by their old "fact checker" who now works for Time magazine here

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