With beautiful, exotically slanted eyes, a well sculpted face and a slim but womanly body, Martha Outlaw was the paragon of a stunning 1940s woman, ending up a highly successful model, a failed actress and in the end a happy family woman.
Martha Rascoe Outlaw was born on April 29, 1914, in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, to Edward Ralph Outlaw and Louise G. Greenleaf. Her older sister, also named Louise, was born in 1908. Both of her parents were from Elizabeth City.
The family lived in Elizabeth City until the 1930s. Martha’s dad Edward was a college educated boat captain who worked in the Texas oil industry. In his spare time, he was a passionate lover of early American history and was well known collector of the Pasquotank area (where Elizabeth City is situated) local stories. The stories were later privately published by Martha’s mom Louise in a book named Old Nag’s Head (this was to in 1954, after Ralph’s death).
The Outlaws were a well liked, popular local family, and both Martha and Louise were local debutantes, making social column notices in the paper and flirting with local boys.
Martha wanted a career, and decided upon a modeling one. She started modeling in cca 1942, pretty late, when she was almost 30 years old. She was soon a sought after model, and in 1943, was summoned to Hollywood to act in Cover Girl.
Again, I quote some of the previous posts about her movie career:
Her first 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 role sin 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.
Martha appeared in one more movie, albeit uncredited. But, it’s a pretty good one – Since You Went Away, a WW2 classic. Unlike many other WW2 movies, it has nothing to do with the battleground but all to do with the people left behind, just as much victims of war as the soldiers were. While this is not a master piece, not by far, as it is marred by cons typical of the patriotic WW2 movies (too preachy, a bit unrealistic, too sentimental), it still features some superb performances and that is its core strength that raises it above the typical WW2 propaganda film. Claudette Colbert, Jennfier Jones, Shirley Temple, Robert Walker, Joseph Cotten, Monty Woolley are all solid performers and all give spirited performances. All in a all, a promising start. Yet, it was as much a start as it was the end of Martha’s career.
Martha left the film world to become a wife and mother after this.
In 1942, Martha dated James McKinley Bryant, the well known cafe society broker and author. They actually dated for almost a year but broke up before she departed for Hollywood.
In Hollywood, Martha suffered an appendicitis attack in October 1944 and lived in a single room with fellow starlet, Karen Gaylord. Gaylord even had problems when she wanted t marry her love, Ted Knoll, since there was a shortage of housing in Los Angeles then (during the war).
Martha married Henry Edwards Huntington II on May 17, 1944, while he was in the Army Air Force. He was the grandson and name sake of Henry E. Huntington, famous millionaire philanthropist. Born on January 3, 1921, his father was Huntington’s only son, Howard Edwards Huntington, and his mother was the former Louise Thayer Green from Berkeley, California. He was the youngest of six children (his siblings were Elizabeth, Margaret, Harriet, Howard and Leslie). Sadly, Henry was just one year old when his father died.
The couple lived a lavish life in California and had two children, two sons, Henry III, born in 1945, and Edward “Ted”, born on August 25, 1947.
Martha separated from her husband in November 1951, and sued him for divorce in December 1951. She claimed he took 9,000$ dollars from their shared account and left California without providing any means for her or the boys. There was a bit of push and shove since Huntington, in hopes of getting a swift divorce, moved “permanently” to Nevada, became a Nevada resident, and filed for his own divorce proceedings. He charged Martha with mental cruetly and was awarded a default divorce in March, but since Martha signed a separate divorce petition, there was a bit of a wobble. In the end Martha was awarded 2900$ monthly temporary alimony in January, and the final divorce decree was given in June 1952. Martha even hired two private detectives to tail her husband, who laid low in Nevada, but they never did manage to catch him. Martha testified that Huntington could frequently get her up at all hours of the night so he could tell her about his “conquests”, and that he abused her verbally.
In the meantime, Martha wisely choose to give up on the whole sordid game and married Secondo Guasti III, scion of a well known California wine making family, on April 17, 1954. It was true love, since Martha gave up her 1,000$ alimony after the marriage (Huntington only had to continue paying 600$ per month for their two sons). Guasti was Martha’s junior by 10 years, being born on October 13, 1925. His grandfather was Secondo Guasti I, founder of the Italian Vineyard Company. Secondo came from Italy to the US in 1881 and slowly built his business from the ground up. Within 20 years he had founded his own vineyard and town, and his name became synonymous with Southern California wine. A simple testament to his success – penniless when he arrived, Guasti later lived in a mansion on West Adams Boulevard in Los Angeles that was said to have cost $500,000 to build.
His father was Secondo Guasti Jr, Secondo Sr’s only son (he also had a daughter). Secondo’s mother was a well known gourmet cook who combined several ethical cuisines into a compact new cuisine, and wrote cookbooks. Sadly, Secondo Guasti Jr. died in Santa Barbara on April 6, 1933 at the age of 42. His widow remarried in 1935 and moved to New York. Secondo later moved back to California.
Martha and Secondo had a happy, fulfilling marriage and were socially prominent in Pasadena, often giving their famous gala parties for friends. The charmed life lasted until Secundo’s death in 1973. Martha’s former husband, Harry Huntington, died in 1978. He remarried in 1954 to Lucille Barnes Noonan.
Martha continued to live in California, and was very active in the local community.
Martha Guasti died on December 30, 2002 in Santa Barbara.