Beautiful model whose movie career never happened, but who became a leading philanthropist in the New Jersey area, Helen Mueller is certainly a woman living an interesting life.
Helen Irene Mueller was born in August 1919 in Bloomfield, New Jersey, to Emil Mueller and his wife, Gertrude Mueller, the youngest of three daughters. Her older sisters were Marguerite V., born in 1913, and Hildegarde, born in 1915. Both of her parents were born in Germany and immigrated to the States in about 1903 and 1904.
Helen grew up in Bloomfield, New Jersey. There she graduated from Bloomfield high school (but opted not to go to college).
Helen’s father died in the 1930s, and her mother took up nursing to support the family. Her sisters married and left the family home, and in 1940, Helen and her mother were living together in Bloomfield, New Jersey. Helen was working as a professional photographer’s aide. Her knowledge of the photography process helped her carve a career as a model, and she left for New York in cca 1941. She quickly rose in the modeling ranks, and was posing for Norman Rockwell and regularly appearing on magazine covers. In 1943, she was summoned to Hollywood to appear in Cover girl, a Rita Hayworth movie, and left for the West coast.
Again, I quote some of the previous posts about her movie career:
Her first and only credit is Cover Girl, a now classic Rita Hayworth/Gene Kelly Technicolor musical. While today remembered primarily a springboard for the two stars (Gene Kelly, loaned out from MGM; finally got the treatment he deserved at his home studio after this movie, and Rita crawled out of the B movies and supporting roles in A movies and got her due with Gilda and other great movies), it’s a fun, sweet movie nonetheless. Rita is simply enchanting, and Gene, while his character is somewhat of a jerk, redeems himself with his superb, athletic dancing. A great and breezy way to pass an hour and a half!
Helen was one of 14 cover girls who appeared in it. The others were Betty Jane Hess, Eileen McClory, Dusty Anderson, Jinx Falkenburg, Cecilia Meagher, Anita Colby, Francine Counihan and so on.
I was surprised to see just how many models actually had low-key love lives and married normal guys. I always imagine them as glamorous gals who ended up with crem de la crem of society (Conover once remarked that he wasn’t sure was he running a marrying agency or a modeling agency). Yet, there undoubtedly was a string of models who married high up and made news with their romantic exploits. Helen was on the threshold between these two : the girls next door and the glam queens. Why? Let us find out!
Helen hits the papers in 1941 as a serious romance of a famous illustrator Jon Whitcomb. Whitcomb had just left a short and bitter marriage to Mary Brian months prior, and of course the “serious romance” led nowhere.
Well, for a time in 1943, Helen was in all the papers as the prospective bride to be of Mickey Rooney, that well-wed but well-loved cad. Rooney needs no introductions – a genius all around performer, he was one of the best examples of the triple threat: an actor, dancer and singer rolled into one. By 1943, he was already married once, to Ava Gardner, but the marriage was pretty short. Helen and Mickey met in the early 1943, by April were a constant couple, and in August he organised her a birthday party and even gifted her with a ruby bracelet! They were frequently photographed at the Mocambo night club and at the premiere of “For Whom the Bell Tolls” . It must have been love for Mickey, as he tried to persuade the pretty model to marry him in January 1944. During the whole month of September and October Helen was trying in earnest to fight off rumors that she would wed Mickey, claiming that she was engaged to another man.
And engaged to another man she was. Helen announced her engagement to Bill “Wild Indian” Geyer in May 1943, before things with Mickey really heated up. She vehemently tried to deny that she was in a serious relationship with Mickey and that she would wed Bill regardless. She and Bill married on March 15, 1944, in New Jersey.
Now, Geyer is a very colorful, interesting man. I quote http://www.njinvent.org/ web site for information about Bill’s father, also called William Geyer:
William Geyer arrived in the United States from his native Germany in 1910 at age 17, earning his passage by peeling potatoes on the ship. He had no money or command of the language but put his skills to work as a glassblower at Westinghouse, making lamps for 15 cents an hour.
By 1918, at age 25, he established Scientific Glass Apparatus Co. in Bloomfield in the back bedroom of his home. After the business spilled onto other parts of his property, including the chicken coop, he established his first factory in Bloomfield, about 500 feet from his home. Several skilled craftsmen manned the plant, producing custom-made glassware for local laboratories.
Geyer was the inventor of automatic burettes, metal-clad joints, melting point thermometers and other items now considered standard equipment in laboratories. He was also responsible for the development and production of interchangeable glassware in the United States.
He was honored with the Kiwanis International Legion of Honor Award.
His son “Indian” Bill Geyer, who was an All-American running back at Colgate University and a professional with the Chicago Bears, succeeded his father as president of Scientific Glass, now an international company with annual sales in excess of $7 million. He was resident of Bloomfield.
Here are some more bits about Bill – it’s easy to see what an interesting character he was:
– Colgate football – 1939, 1940, 1941
– 1942 East-West Shrine Game
– Selected in the 11th round of the 1942 NFL draft by the Chicago Bears
– Chicago Bears – 1942-1943, 1946
– He paid for his own plane and training after being rejected for Colgate’s civilian pilot training course in 1940 because of an eye injury
– He was turned down by the Navy in 1941 because of the same injury, so he had surgery to correct it
– Returned to Colgate in 1943 for aviation training and took math courses from Andy Kerr
– Gunnery officer in the Navy in World War II
– Played with a Navy football team in a game against the Army in the Philippines in 1945
– Returned to the Brooklyn Armed Guard Center in 1945 after commanding a gun crew
Bill was a very industrious, hard working man. He served not only heads a prospering manufacturing company, with factories in many states, but also held such honors as the vice-chairmanship of the Colgate University Board of Trustees and the presidency of the New York Touchdown Club.
Helen and Bill had, by all means, an exciting, harmonious marriage – in short, a marriage anybody could wish for. They had more than one child, but I am unfortunately unable to find their names (if anybody has this information, please email me so I can put it here). They were a perfect team, doing extensive philanthropic work together, flying in their Cessna airplane, attending charity events, mingling with students at Bill’s alma mater, Colgate University, and making long sojourns in Africa to go hunting.
Due to their shared philanthropic work, Helen is a living legend in New Jersey, as the local web page (http://patch.com/) quotes about her:
Helen Geyer has served for many years as a valuable volunteer to the YMCA of Montclair. Over the years she served on the Ladies Auxiliary and in addition to many other special events she assisted in transforming the gymnasium to look like that of the theme of that year’s fundraiser. She assisted with inviting “the right people” to the table for each event and funded several projects over the years. More recently and more significantly, Mrs. Geyer generously funded the renovation of the 159 Glenridge Avenue property. In 2007, the branch of the YMCA intended to serve our youth population was officially named the Helen & Bill Geyer Family Center of the Montclair YMCA. We give many thanks to Helen for her philanthropic spirit.
Bill Geyer died on June 4, 2004.
Helen Geyer is still alive and lives in Montclair, New Yersey.