Adele Jergens is undoubtedly one of the better known actresses featured on this site. There is plenty of info about her on the internet, and her career is well covered. So why choose her? First, she is obscure to the general audience of today. Second, Adele was such a likable, interesting actress, a gal who could have gone much further had some opportunities knocked on her door. Actresses who suffered similar fates were a dime a dozen in Hollywood – and I hope to profile more of these as time goes by. Adele is first on the list.
Adele Louisa Jurgens was born on November 26, 1917, in Ridgewood, Brooklyn, New York City, New York to August and Marie Adele Jurgens. She was the only daughter among four sons.
Adele grew up as a tomboy, playing baseball with her brothers. However, her home life was anything but easy – her father was a difficult man and could barely afford to support the family. Adele attended Southside High School in Brooklyn, and graduated from Grover Cleveland High School.
Adele took ballet classes, but deemed her temperament ill suited for the art, so took to dancing in burlesque. At 14 she won a scholarship to Manhattan’s Albertina Rasch Dance School. Naturally gifted and very ambitious, she was barely 15 years old when she got the nickname “the girl with the million-dollar legs”.
Soon, her hard work paid off and she was steadily working as a chorine in Brooklyn Fox Theatre and the Ziegfeld Follies. To supplement her income, she signed with the John Robert Powers modeling agency. She also worked briefly as a Rockette, and was named the city’s leading showgirl. She was an understudy of the legendary dancer, Gypsy Rose Lee.
Adele hit it big when she was named “Miss World’s Fairest” at the 1939 World Fair. Not long after, she was to become a famous war time pin up. This catapulted her into Hollywood.
There are several well written accounts of Adele’s career, much better than any I could write about, so I decided to put a link to this fabulous pdf on Alan K. Rode’s site. Check it out by all means! Adele was one of the legendary femme fatales during the golden age of film noir and she acted opposite quite a number of hefty actors! She even played Marilyn Monroe’s mother in a movie! Another great article about Adele is on the Films of the golden age site. Go and read it now 🙂
In an interesting twist of fate, Adele was often compared to Virginia Mayo in terms of looks – both were round faced, soft looking blondes – and in real life, the two were good friend, dating from their shared New York chorus girls days. Despite being physically similar, they were diametrically opposite when personality was concerned – Adele was a boisterous, simple, gregarious girl who liked to have fun and dated guys by the bucket load from her earliest years – Virginia was a quiet, unassuming girl who rarely went out, was very devoted to her family and did not have any serious beaus.
Adele first hit the papers in March 1937, when she was dating George Hale. Hale had a fine eye for ladies, and specialized in finding diamonds in the rough. He allegedly took Adele from a Brooklyn high school play and launched her into a full fledged chorus girl. Adele was liked by the boys and dated constantly during the late 1930s.
In 1939, while making a picture for Columbia, she was allegedly infatuated with a Brazilian businessman. In 1940, she added Franchot Tone and Burgess Meredith to her line of erstwhile admirers. On an ironic note, George Hale, who had been dating Adele for two years by then, but was too busy to commit, introduced her to Tone, claiming he was a perfect gentleman, just the kind of a man to make a woman feel nice and to take her out. Then Franchot and Adele hit it off and dated every night! George was left dangling…
By August 1940, Adele was fed up with Franchot, and was one of many girls that Victor Mature dated (along with Betty Grable and Phyllis Brooks). Drop in a few dates with lothario Bruce Cabot in the mix.
In 1941, Adele first dated Al Jolson (funny, considering that her former boyfriend Hale was suing him!), and then Orrin Lehmann fell for her like a ton of bricks. No luck for Orrin – Adele liked Al better and dated him for several months. Jolson lived the prestige California-Florida-New York relation, and this gave Adele the perfect opportunity to date other swains while he was in another town – and often a different man every night! Plus, she also went on tour with him, just to keep close. Oh Al!
They had a brief tiff in May, got together again, and Jolson asked Adele to marry him in June. Yes, it was that serious for Al. But was it for Adele? While she said yes to his proposal, no wedding date was set, and Adele enjoyed a sojourn in South America in August. On board with her were other pretty showgirls, like Nancy Hill and Peggy Healy, and the famous Brazilian money bags, Joege Guinle. Imagine the fun! She came back to Al, naturally, but it did not yell. They broke up in September.
In October, Adele caught Tony Martin’s fancy. They were a charming couple, dancing together in Los Angeles nightclubs. In Early 1942, she was seen with Horacee Schmidlapp, a decidedly non handsome, but rich and charming fellow, future husband of Carole Landis. He gave her a fur coat (how can any woman resist a fur coat!). But, her real heartthrob remained a mystery – a columnist even teased that his real identity would cause quite a splash. This man gifted her with a mink coat and a bracelet (she obviously had several mink coats).
In April 1942, Dorothy Killgallen wrote a long piece on Adele, the proof of her then popularity. We learned that she is the most dated chorus girl, and that many of her admirers were rich and famous (duh!), and that many of them want to marry her after the first few dates. Obviously Adele was not swayed by money that easily, and turned them down quite a few (something I admire her infinitely for… GO ADELE!). Once an admirer asked her to pinch him so he could he sure he was not dreaming, and she pinched him so hard, it proved to be their last date 🙂 She was a big eater, enjoyed fine food, and her mother served her breakfast in bed every day at 11:30. She lived in Upper Manhattan, her father worked in a real estate office. Her nick name was Addie.
She preferred men in their thirties, and they have to be good conversationalists. She does not care if they are good dancers or not. She impressed Franchot Tone by her eating habits – he called her “Beauty and the feast”. Adele is a fine singer, does not like cocktail parties and prefers golf, horseback riding and loved to travel. She goes to work in IRS, but goes back mostly in her admirer’s limousines. She drinks tow bottles of beer a day, never drinks more than two cocktails, can drink a lot of champagne and smokes in moderation. Her favorite drink is a Black and White and Soda.
Her favorite people are Roosevelt, Buddy De Silva and Eddie Cantor. Her favorite movie is Gone with The Wind, and she loves to read, especially Marcel Proust, but never has time to read any more (was this really true remains to be seen). One day she wants to be married, and her future husband has to first and foremost be a nice guy, his wealth comes way second.
During that time, Adele was madly in love with a saxophone player from the Freddy Martin band. Feted by playboys and millionaires, and she loved a hard working boy, so cute! The relationship lasted until the end of summer.
Now, we come into a very sketchy and muddled part of Adele’s life, and understandably so. Somehow, she met a Washington DC bigwig. A married bigwig. The two started an affair in early autumn 1942. While they were low key, word was soon to spread that somebody high up in Washington was dating Adele. The news broke in January 1943, but he could not be named. By April 1943, Adele told friends that he would divorced his wife and marry her. No such luck, the unknown man chickened out and they broke up. Adele was heartbroken, but marched on.
By June, she was involved with an East Coast meat packing millionaire. In January 1944, Adele cut short her Hollywood career to go back to New York, to be close to a certain bandleader. By September he was ancient history, and RAF ace Willy Bidell took his place. By October, Adele was back in Hollywood, and in a weird twist of fate, the bandleader she originally pursued now pursued her and moved to Los Angeles. Unfortunately, the housing in Los Angeles was so scarce that Adele and her mom, who was chaperoning her, had to sleep in a wardrobe room on the lot!
Ray Sinatra, Frankie’s cousin, was the next stop in Adele’s amorous adventures. The press claimed the two would get married in January 1945, but she debunked them by saying that Ray was already married to his wife. What a bummer! She continued with Jerry Marks, but left him after a few short dates – sadly, Marks carried a torch for Adele for some time afterwards!
Adele liked her new life in Hollywood. She noted that, while living on New York, she never got up before noon, even if there was matinee performance that day. In direct contrast, now she had to get up at 6 so she could be at the studio at 7, and work until 6 pm. She had to go through make up, hairdressing and costume fitting, and the filming was pretty strenuous. After work, she would only have time for dinner and maybe an early show, but she was firmly in bed before midnight. Her studio wanted to build her to become a rival to Maria Montez – considered the most mesmerizing, seductive girl in Hollywood of that time. Predictably, the papers also build a rivalry between her and Yvonne de Carlo. Petty, but it’s a story we’ve seen a hundred time in Hollywood and will probably see hundred times more. She was also revealed to be a serious ice cream lover.
In April 1945, Adele was seen with producer Ross Hunter, the former date of Jane Withers. Yet, Ray Sinatra was always dangling in the background. He had been separated for many years from his wife, but could not get a divorce. The papers were abuzz with the news tat he wanted to marry Adele, but had to wait for his divorce to come through.
In 1946, Adele dated Jack Dennison, Bill White, producer Raymond Hakim and Ray Rossbach (related to baseball great Hank Greenburg by marriage). She was also visited by her old flame, Orrin Lehmann, in August. She went back briefly to New York after this. October was reserved for Morton Downey. On a funny note, Adele had to dash before midnight to catch a tram that would take her to her brother’s Long Island home. She left to Chicago first, for four days of fun, before returning to Los Angeles.
In March 1947, she was going steady with Tom Cassara. The affair lasted until July 1947, and it was from the looks of it, a serious one. Phillip Reed was her escort in August. Ross Hunter briefly came back to her life about that time. Some hand holding in the public, but not much more. Soon, she was at hand to console Milton Pickman – Pickman was sacked by his fiancee, Nan Wynn. In November she resumed her romance with director Jackson Halliday, whom she sort of started to date in June.
In early 1948, she dated actor Robert “Bob” Scott, and then took up with actor Ron Randell. Soon, Don McGuire was added to the roster. Scott ended up the most serious of her beaus, and friends were pretty sure the two would end up betrothed. Just when you thought, that’s it, Adele is finally going to get married, puff, another man enters the scene – Judd Downey, the legal eagle of Los Angeles. He took over the marriage sweepstakes from poor Bob, and now he was allegedly to become Adele’s husband. In April, the papers were pretty sure the two would wed. Yet, by June she was dating architect George Hyam and there was no additional mention of Downey. As they say, easy come, easy go. Also worth noting is that Hyam designed several dresses for Adele. Not long after, Adele changed her hair color from blonde to brunette.
Milton Berle briefly took over from Hyam in late July, but by August she was already seen another man, Clinton Bagwell. Scott Brady also entered the scene about that time. Adele was sent everywhere in Hollywood by her studio for publicity – for instance, she was there for a drug store opening, and won a specially made lotion!
In 1949, Adele continued her man enchanting ways. She and Johnny Gibbs were often seen at the nightclubs, and especially loved to hear Liberace playing the piano. She was still seeing George Hyam on the sly. Adele was also a tennis fan and often attended tennis events at the Wiltshire Boulevard in Los Angeles. In 1949, something nasty happened to Adele – she wanted to enter an eleator, and stopped herself at the last moment – the elevator shaft was empty! Despite the shock, she attended a charity function at Ciros later and modeled clothes to raise money. Ron Randell then entered her life again. Like her, he was a former Columbia contractee who went on to free lace. In August, Adele developed a crush on a Brazilian businessman, but nothing came out of it. In September, she was robbed and the thieves made way with several of her mink coats and jewelry. Later that month Adele ended a short romance with a wealthy San Francisco man and returned his diamonds (in a bucket :-P)
Also in 1949, Adele was involved with Ronald Reagan – and the same old stories happened again – Ronald was crazy for Adele and wanted to marry her, but she was not to keen on the idea. It seems that the right man, her prince on the white horse, had not yet come.
1950 started on a working note. Adele worked so hard she fainted on the set of one of her movies. The doctor ordered rest and relaxation afterwards. She was even in “negotiations” with the handsome, wealthy Robert Goelet Jr. about appearing in one of his movies filmed in Rome. She also volunteer in a cancer clinic without much fanfare and danced with the Fashionettes, a troupe that donated all it’s earnign to charitable cuases.
By mid 1950, her romance with her one time co star, Glenn Langan, was out. The girl who was a constant bachelorette for years and whom no man could tame had finally found her match. Langan, who was neither rich nor especially popular, caught her heart. In this regard, Adele was truly one of the few actresses who claimed they were not after wealthy man, and they really were not – and this proves it.
The romances blossomed nicely for the second part of 1950 and early 1951. One reported even wrote that Adele has two shadows now – her own and Glen’s. After a small tiff in May (the papers were cryptic about their separation, like even the gossip columnists did not believe the two were over for good). In July, Adele was even seen with another man, Mickey Stokey, a TV personality. My own guess was that she tried the oldest trick – making Glen jealous, as they were not over with each other.
Adele attended the marriage of actress Sally Forrest and Milo Frank and cached the bride`s bouquet. It was a dead give away. She married Langan on October 6, 1951.
She and Langan had a happy marriage that lasted until his death on January 19, 1991. She never remarried.
Her son Tracy was an active, much beloved member of the Hollywood community along with his wife Cynthia. As a Mr. Roy Wagner posted on Tracy’s imdb page:
One of the greatest and most legendary figures in the history of camera support. Tracy was instrumental in the success of so many directors of photography, including myself. No matter what the cost he would make sure that your project had what was necessary to do a good job. I would not have the success that I have had without his extraordinary assistance. He was the backbone of Panavision.
Roy H. Wagner ASC
director of photography
Adele’s health started to fail in the late 1990s. In 2001, Tracy died. It was a huge blow for her, one from which she never recovered.
Adele Langan died on November 22, 2002, just weeks before her 85th birthday.