It was cut short in a way by her favorite drink, vodka. The actress who referred to herself as a “reactress” to some of Hollywood’s leading comic actors, Helen Walker, graced comedies and dramas in the 1940s and 50s.
She supposedly introduced fellow Paramount starlet, Gail Russell, to the joys of vodka as a tranquilizer. And although Russell’s career suffered because of alcoholism, vodka was only an indirect cause of Walker’s career problem.
She was driving drunk one night and picked up some hitchhikers. She got into an accident. One man was killed, and three others and Walker were seriously injured. She was charged with manslaughter.
Although the charges were dropped, there was a civil suit, and much negative publicity (it was during World War II and the hitchhikers were young soldiers). Her career survived but never quite recovered its momentum.
Still, over a 10 year period, she appeared in some damn good films. She is in 1947’s classic noir with Tyrone Power, Nightmare Alley. And there’s the solid thriller, Call Northside 777. There she is opposite Charles Coburn (below) in 1949’s Impact.
And, inevitably, Walker appeared in perhaps more than her share of potboilers (see below).
She went through two marriages and was washed up in movies by the mid-Fifties, and struggled financially after that. She died of cancer in 1968. She was just 47.