Victoria Faust had all required ingredients that, mixed together, could make her a bona fide star – she was beautiful, talented, college educated, a trained singer, with stage experience and, last and but not least, had a capable agent who was also her husband. Yet, after only three movies, she faded into obscurity and never had another film role. Why this happened remains a mystery to me even after researching all I could about her. But well, lets begin!
Victoria M. Faust was born on July 25, 1912, in New York City to Reverend Alfred Luke Faust of Richmond Hill, Queens, New York, and his wife, Victoria M. Lupton (yep, she was the daughter of a preacher man!). Her father was German born, her mother was a native New Yorker. She was the third of five children – her older siblings were Edna L ( born in 1908) and Alfred (born in 1910), and her younger siblings were Herman A. (born in 1914) and Ethel (born in 1916). They lived for a time in Queens, before moving to the Bronx in the early 1920s.
The family moved to Bridgeport, Fairfield, Connecticut, sometime before 1930. They returned to New York and her father became the minister in the First Methodist Episcopal Church. Victoria attended college and graduated, although I could not find which one or indeed what exactly did she study, but I do know she was hard bitten by the acting and singing bug and decided that is where her career lies.
Despite the prevalent notion that acting was not a honorable job for a woman, let alone a daughter of a reverend, Alfred was very supportive of Victoria from the very start of her career and actually helped her early on by getting her a singing spot at the prestigious Palace Elegante nigh club in 1935. Victoria was very close to her dad and they enjoyed a cordial and loving relationship for many decades.
That same year, Victoria sailed to Europe and worked part time as a model (posing for Vogue Europe among other publications) in order to pay for her music lessons in London. She returned to New York, and started working as a radio singer, gradually breaching onto the stage, but always hoping for a movie career.
In 1942, she was finally noted by producer Hunt Stomberg and signed to a long term contract.
Victoria, to my utter astonishment, made only three movies, and not completely bad ones at that.
Her first and most famous movie was Lady of Burlesque, a movie I am astonished ever got made at that time and place. We all know that the late 1940s and 1950s were the time of the strongest Hays code, and boy, is Lady of burlesque a movie not tailor made for censorship! The plot concerns the murder of a “lady of burlesque”, and Victoria had the dubious honor of playing the murder victim. if nothing else, the movie is abundant with drop dead gorgeous ladies – if you count Barbara STanwyck out (I never considered her remotely beautiful, but a first class actress), there are Iris Adrian, Gloria Dickson, Marion Martin, Stephanie Bachelor and the list goes on! Wunderbar! Eye candy aside, director William Wellman did a good job and directed a brisk, smooth and elegant production that never veers into high art territory but offers loads of fun, a witty script and great burlesque numbers! No nudity of course, but who cares!
Victoria’s second movie came two years later, with The Scarlet Clue. It’s a Chalie Chan movie, and we all know what to expect from such films, right? And yep, this is a Charlie Chan from the Monogram period, so you it’s easy to guess the level of quality the series received. The Scarlet Clue is better than the average Monogram Charlie Chan entry, with a slightly up level cast. The story if silliness personified, but the snappy dialogue makes it work somehow. The pace is quick and there is not a moment to lose. Sidney Toler is more than descent as Chan. All in all, nothing to write home about, but makes for some good mystery viewing int he age before we had TV series like Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot.
Victoria made one more uncredited appearance in Johnny O’Clock. It’s Robert Rossen’s first film noir, and it’s a pretty good movie overall (hey, it IS Robert Rossen!). The plot is a frequently seen motif of the post war period – the hero who walks the fine like between the good guys and the bad boys, and just tries to keep his head above the water. No heroics, no shining knights, just a man trying to live like he wants to live and not lose his head in the process. I’m not a big fan of Dick Powell (who plays the movies namesake), but he got better, IMHO, as he got older – instead of playing in idiotic musicals (with the supremely untalented but cute Ruby Keeler), he actually tackled some semi serious roles when he started pushing 30 +. He was actually a pretty good film noir anti hero, charming, sly but always with a darkness lurking behind that fading-pretty-boy face. His female support, Evelyn Keyes and Ellen Drew, are most very effective and both underrated actresses, IMHO. Like most film noirs, this one boasts great cinematography, and the script is full of great one liners. No, it’s not Rossen at his best, but it’s a worthwhile effort.
Victoria continued her career on radio and TV, but never made a movie again.
Victoria married her first husband, George Gurskin, on May 23, 1934 in Manhattan, New York. Gurskin was born on August 24, 1909, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Benjamin and Lucy Gurskin. He was college educated and a very assertive man – he became the president of his very own radio company by the time he was 22 years old. Soon after, he became a successful theatrical agent (in addition to being an business executive). It was Gurskin who decided to move himself and Victoria to Los Angeles to further their careers, and in 1940 they lived in Beverly Hills.
There is a funny story about how Victoria met and fell in love with her next husband, actor Rick Vallin. First, something about Vallin. He was born as Eric Efron on September 29, 1919 in The Russian Confederation and came to the US while still a youngster (with his family). He started his acting career in a New York stock company in the early 1930s, when he was just 14 years old. After a long career on the stage, in early 1940 he joined the Pasadena Playhouse and got his first movie acting role opposite Sidney Blackmer. He played a variety of roles in B movies, mostly members of ethnic minorities, villain henchmen and so on. He was never destined to become a big star, but, like many other less known actors (and unlike many actresses) would work non stop in Hollywood for more than 30 years.
Victoria met Rick in about 1946, and soon he moved in with her and George. Boy, I can’t imagine what George was thinking when he let that happen – but let’s put three plausible explanations:
A) just a very gullible guy who pretended that everything was okay
B) he didn’t care at that point in his marriage anymore and just went along with it
C) he had a twisted sense of humor and enjoyed such strange arrangements.
Anyway, George was soon dating Margaret Withing – Rick and Victoria fell in love, and the whole tangled mess got untangled when Victoria and George finally divorced in 1947. George remarried Florence Halop in 1949, and had two daughters by her, Georgianna and Benita.
Victoria married actor Rick Vallin after the divorce was made final. Their daughter Victoria Luptonfaust Vallin was born on December 6, 1948. Victoria was finished with movies by this time, but she allegedly had her very own TV show. She was quite wealthy and lived well off.
In 1952, her father, Reverend Alfred Faust, was en route to California to baptize their daughter when fell ill in St. Joseph, Missouri and had to be hospitalized. Victoria came running to his bedside, and was soon joined by Rick. It sure seemed they had a good and solid marriage, but appearances can be deceiving, because, by that time, their marriage was in deep trouble. Her father survived, but the marriage did not. They separated in September 1952, and divorced the next year.
Now, what we do know is that Victoria remarried to a guy living in Mexico and moved there to live with him. I have no idea who they guy is or when did this happen. She lost contact with Vallin, so I have no idea how often he was his daughter. Sometime later, Victoria and her Mexican groom got divorced and she returned to the States, settling in San Diego and living in quiet retirement.
George Gurskin died on August 18, 1975. Rick Vallin died on August 31, 1977.
Sadly, Victoria’s namesake daughter, Victoria Vallin, died on November 15, 1993, in San Diego, at the age of 44.
Victoria Faust died on April 13, 1994 in San Diego, California.