One of the model-turn-actress crop, Barbara Frekign gave Hollywood a go for a few times, and achieved no bug success. However, she remained a highly succesful model for a long period of years and did more than well for herself!
Barbara Freking was born on January 28, 1920, in Chicago, Illinois,to Henry Louis Freking and Dorothy Edredge.Her father was a newspaper publisher, born in Louisville, Kentucky. Her mother was a housewife born in South Carolina. She had an older brother, Henry Louis, born on May 4, 1918 (who sadly died on May 7, 1918), and a younger brother, also named Henry Louis, born on July 21, 1922.
Henry, born in 1878, was already married once before Dorothy, to Ida Naomi Long, in 1900. They divorced sometime in the 1910s. Dorothy and Henry married in about 1915, lived in Indiana for a short while, moved to Chicago, where their first son and Barbara were born, and then moved to Michigan where the younger Henry was born. From there, they moved to Spencer, Indiana and later Atlanta, Georgia, where Barbara grew up and attended high school.
Her parents later moved to Bucks County, Pennsylvania, but by this time Barbara had already left their home and was living and working as a model in New York. She landed in Hollywood in 1947, when she was an experienced, mature 27-year-old looking to break into movies.
Barbara made her debut in If You Knew Susie, a entertaining,mid tier Eddie Cantor/Joan Davis comedy. While nothing outstanding, it’s a shining example of casual, nice, benevolent 1940s movies, led by some seriously talented people. Her second movie was the poor man’s Body and soul, In This Corner. We haven’t got John Garfield and Lili Palmer, but Scott Brady, a handsome but highly wooden actor, and Anabel Shaw, a nice looking but not overly talented actress. The story however is a good one, with tight noir moments and plenty of sleazy boxing underworld elements. Appointment with Murder was another entry into the Falcon movie series, and it any much better or much worse than the rest of them. The Falcon is played by notable magician John Calvert, who lived to perform at the ripe old age of 100 (interesting man!).
Barbara moved up a notch with the A movie, East Side, West Side, a grim story of a shallow society man who ruins hi smarriage for a brief dalliance with an old flame. Boasting a strong and capable cast, the movie is good enough, but not outsanding. Barbara Stanwyck, for one, is too old to play the leading female role, and James Mason, otherwise a wonderful actor, is pretty much wasted in his bland role. The supporting players have it better – Van Helfin is great, and is Ava Gardner. Next, Barbara was one of the Petty girls in The Petty Girl, a handsome but none too deep musical with Joan Caulfield (beautiful for sure, but not a good thespian), and Bob Cummings. Barbara then appeared in a string of prestige movies, not al of the same quality:
The Lemon Drop Kid is one of Bob Hope’s better movies, a brisk, witty piece of amusement, about a likable but flawed con artist who has to repay a debt. His Kind of Woman was a guilty pleasure, the type of movie you can only make when the leading man is Robert Mitchum and the leading lady is Jane Russell. Forget the story, the supporting characters or the direction – there are important but secondary – Bob and Jane are the reason to watch this. Two Tickets to Broadway is another one of those insipid, dull musicals that are ultimately likable enough to watch at least once. The Las Vegas Story is another Jane Russell movie, this time with Victor Mature instead of Bob Mitchum. And Vincent Price on the side. Barbara was then again in a Bob Hope movie – Casanova’s Big Night,. not one of his best effords but far from a total waste. Plus his leading lady is the outstanding Joan Fontaine.
Barbara’s last movie was Jet Pilot, a John Wayne vehicle. After this, Barbara went back to modeling full-time.
Barbara was a seasoned New York model by the time she landed in Hollywood, and probably had more amorous experiences than most starlets (of which we sadly know nothing about!)
In early 1949, Barbara went to Costa Rica to participate in the making of a documentary about a fabulous treasure-hunt expedition, led by James Forbes, by filmmaker Paul Parry. About that time, barbara was dating Horace Schmidlapp, former husband (and official widower) of Carole Landis. As Horace was shorter than Barbara, she often had to take of her shoes when the two went dancing. By April she was back from Costa Rica, and dating Franchot Tone (boy, that man really dated almost all of the Hollywood starlets!)
By May, she was seen with Ralph Dandies. Barbara then moved to Columbia joining two other b.b.s from New York, Vera Lee and Marjorie Slapp In December 1949, she was beaued by Sterling Edwards, and they were often seen at the Mocambo. Edwards was far from the only man in Barbara’s life – she also dated rich Spaniard Ricky De Vega on the side.
In early 1950, Barbara took up with Howard Lee, wealthy Texan oilman and future husband of Hedy Lamarr and Gene Tierney. That man sure had taste! Then in mid 1951, Barbara started to date that man who would change her life – Oleg Cassini.
What to say about Cassini? Slick as a snake, handsome in a dry, Continental way, a true connoisseur of fashion and beauty, he had his good sides – but plenty of bad sides to match them. He was women as objects that needed to be conquered, put himself first and was the supreme bon vivant egoist. Cassini was still married to Gene Tierney when they hooked up, and by January 1952, it was clear that Gene would divorce Cassini, and that Barbara could seize her chance of becoming the next Mrs. Cassini.
In march, there was this article in the papers: The Hollywood models who know.her best say that Barbara Freking will never wed dress designer Oleg Cassini, who’s been divorced by Gene Tierney. You know what? And they were right. 50 years after the fact, I do know that Barbara would never marry Cassini… But neither Barbara nor Cassini probably knew it back then. And I can only say – all the better for it. As a first danger signal – Cassini was also dating another model, June Myers, at the same time.
Barbara spat back by dating producer Charles Feldman for a short time in late march/early april. She then dated a string of men – attorney Ralph Fields, Dan Dailey, theatrical producer Herman Levin, and returned to new York. obviously there was some correspondence between Cassini and Barbara, and when she came back to Los Angeles in October 1952, they were again seen together.
Everything was swell and fancy until April 1953, when things turned once again sour. Barbara was despondent, and in a fit of depression, took an overdose of sleeping pills. Only the quick thinking of her mother, who called the ambulance saved her from a grim fate – the doctors came just in time to save her. After this unfortunate incident, Barbara and Cassini reunited, both professionally and privately. A newspaper article followed:
The Cassini charm was in full force yesterday for the opening duo of fashion shows presented by the Children’s Museum Guild In the William II. Block Company auditorium. Count Oleg was master of ceremonies, pointing out the highlights of his fall and winter collection. AH the guild members who modeled were sent out to buy waist cinehers to do .justice to his shepherdess line around the middle, and often came on the runway in pairs to show the same dress with belt or without. Asked about his stand in the hemline controversy, he said: “For the tight sheath I think a little shorter is all right. It is effective with a straiefit skirt, but full skirts I think should be longer.” Two New York models accompanied him for the show, Miss Carol Walker and Miss Barbara Freking. As Barbara was walking around the elaborate centerpiece the guild had created at the foot of the runway, Cassini asked her to tell whore she came from. Her answer vas “Spencer, Ind.” She still has friends there although her career has taken her to South Carolina and California before New York. The show will be repeated at 12:30 o’clock today.
They shuffled between California and New York and were firmly a couple, until another spat. The spat was named Grace Kelly, and it effectively ended their relationship… For then. Barbara was clearly devastated, and here you can see how Cassini operated – he just changed one beautiful woman for another. Barbara, obviously madly in love, couldn’t see the signs and always went back to him – Grace, on the other hand, was much more frugal and understood just what a cad Cassini was. She enjoyed his company for a time, then sacked him for a more suitable man. I can’t say I’m sorry for Cassini – IMHO, if you operate this way, you shouldn’t be surprised when it hits you right back in the heart.
Barbara started to date mobster John Sorrenti in March 1954. Then she reunited with Ralph Fields, and casually dated Bill Eaton, famous man about town. In early 1955, Orrin Lehmann took over, and squired her all around New York. Jerry Herzfeld, the race track ace, took over by may 1955 from Orrin.
However, Cassini was never far from Barbara’s mind. They reunited yet again in early 1956. of Barbara, will you never learn! The relationnship lasted for a year-and-somethig this time. They broke up in early 1957. By June, she was dating Jerry Herzfeld again. Then Cassini cut in, AGAIN. They dated until late 1957. In January 1958, she was seen with Hugh O’Brian. By that time, Barbara and six other aspiring actresses lived in a sorority house they called “House of the Seven Garbos”.
It seems that Barbara and Cassini were business partners, and if they did date, it was half-hearted. Barbara kept Jerry Herzfeld on a short leash for a time, but he also settled for another lady in the end.
In his autobiography, actor/comedian Don Harron claims that Barbara had an affair with his second wife, actress Virginia Leith, before the two were married. If this is true, then Barbara was a bisexual, but this of course had to be kept from the tabloids of the time. Yep, it was expected of all women back then to be lilly-white and family oriented.
It seems that Barbara never married, and worked as a model for a long time. She retired to Connecticut at some point.
Barbara Freking died on August 25, 2008, in Greenwich, Connecticut.