Beautiful women who crashed Hollywood only thanks to their looks and charms were plentiful, but rarely did they achieve anything worthwhile. Harriette Tarler, one of those women, did find her bit of fame with the Three Stooges shorts, but not much more. Let’s find out something about her!
Harriette Gerthrude Hecht was born on November 4, 1920, in New York, to Adolph Hecth and Charlotte Reicher. Her parents were both Hungarian immigrants – her father worked as a furrier and wholesale fur merchant. Her older sister Beatrice was born in 1914.
The family moved to Los Angeles at some point, and Harriette graduated from high school there. She got married, had a family, and lived in Los Angeles until 1950, when she started her career (sorry, I don’t have any more info about this).
Since my knowledge of the Three Stooges is very limited at best (I’ve never seen any of their movies or shorts, heck I can’t even name al three of them), I’ll simply skip Harriette’s claim to fame – her roles in Three Stooges shorts. She was the girl who got the pie in the face. For more information about her roles in the shorts, visit the fabulous Three Stoones site on this link.
Now, let’s take a look at some of her other acting achievements. Unfortunately, she was always uncredited and did no big service to the movies she appeared in… Thus, her career outside the Three Stooges shorts was a bit lackluster at best.
In 1957, she appeared in The Joker Is Wild, a surprisingly touching and nuanced biography of comedy legend Joe E. Lewis. Sinatra was in top form playing a man who was a personal friend for many years. Recommended! The next year Harriette was in The True Story of Lynn Stuart, a film noir about operatives going undercover, but with a whole new premise – the operative is a housewife, who, after her nephew died from a drug OD, decided to do something and help the police. it’s a low-budget movies and the cast is second tier, but it’s unusual, out of the ordinary and interesting.Next came The Party Crashers, a typical delinquent youth 1950s movies with Connie Stevens trying to choose between wild boy Mark Damon and nice guy Bobby Driscoll.
As Young as We Are was a rare B movie that tackled the student/teacher romance in the 1950s. While today you wouldn’t even flinch at the theme, back then it was dynamite and never shows in A budget movies. While this is a half-baked, lowly made film, make no mistake, the performances are good enough to warrant it a watching. Pippa Scott is pretty good in the female lead, and Robert Harland hits a right note as the highschool in love with his teacher.
The Buccaneer is an entertaining, fun, well made adventure movie. It’s not a classic nor is it a work of art, but it more than fulfills it’s promises. Yul Brynner is the eponymous buccaneer, and Anthony Quinn in the bad guy. Pirates, high seas, sword fights, pretty ladies, oh my!
Don’t Give Up the Ship is a typical Jerry Lewis comedy, this time on a ship and mocking naval beaurocracy. What can I say, if you like Jerry Lewis you’ll like this movie for sure. Since I’m not a fan (quite the opposite), I’ll just say no. The only reason I could find to watch this is the gorgeous Dina Merrill in the female lead role. Love Dina!!
Last Train from Gun Hill is a western that manages to outgrow that (IMHO) limited genre to become sa semi classic. it’s not as well-known today as some other staples of the genre like High Noon or 3:15 to Yuma, but it’s a sounding hit in almost al departments. Stalwart story (it starts like a run of the mill revenge story) that hides more depth than you think – check. Good actors – Kirk Douglas, Anthony Quinn, Carolyn Jones – check. Great cinematography – check. Suspenseful action scenes – check. Horses – check. Nothing else you need!
Harriette moved to New York and left movies behind for another career.
Harriette was an interesting, colorful person with some major flaws. She was immensely charming and easily won people over. She also intrinsically understood how HOllywood worked, and knew that talent and beauty were not enough to gain fame – you needed a gimmick. Hers was being nicknamed Tiger and singing her autographs with a tiger paw next to her name. Long after her career ended, she moved to New York and decorated her apartment wholly in tiger print. She also wore tiger print silk dresses.
Harriette married Leo M Schechtman on June 1939. Leo was born on April 20, 1916 in Chicago, Illinois, to Max and Lona Schechtman. Their daughter Stephanie Shelton was born on November 16, 1942. They divorced not long after her birth. Leo was allegedly a mean-spirited, tight-fisted man who never contributed anything to Stephanie’s well-being, even stole her the money Harriette gave her. He later remarried and had children. He died on March 4, 1990.
Harriette married for the second time to Arthur Tarler on November 3, 1951. Tarler was born on July 9, 1921, in Germany, to Siegmund Tarler and Regina Heimberg. He immigrated to the States in 1938, just before the start of WW 2. He lived with his maternal uncle in the Bronx, New York. Somehow he got to California in the mid 1940s and started a lighting fixture business. The marriage was short-lived, and here is an article about their August 1954 divorce:
Actress Harriette Tarler, 27, who now is engaged in a divorce contest with Arthur Tarler, 33, in the courtroom of Superior Judge Gordon Howden. Tarler, with Tobias G. Klin-ger as his counsel, had just withdrawn his cross-complaint charging mental cruelty, and was contesting only his wife’s claim to certain of their community assets. The husband is in the lighting fixtures business …
“I’m only beginning to see the light on this,” she told the court. Questioned by her attorneys, Henry J. Gross Jr. and Jacques Leslie, the actress said her husband stayed out nights until 4:30 or 5 in the morning. Her friend, Pauline Goddard, a fashion co-ordinator, corroborated her. She said that at a party one night someone complimented Mrs. Tarler, and “her husband immediately started belittling her.” The hearing will be resumed Monday.
So you get the drift, another messy divorce. But, that was the way divas did it back in the 1980s. Anyway, the two divorced and went on with their lives. Arthur remarried to Judith Rappapor, and had two children, Regine L, born on November 7, 1956, and Stacy J, born on January 30, 1959. Artur retired in the 1980 and went to live in Denver, Colorado, with his wife. He died there on August 23, 2009.
In 1958, Harriette left everything in Los Angeles (including Stephanie who was 16 years old) so she can move into the New York Plaza hotel suite, paid by her married boyfriend. Stephanie had to fend for herself (remembered, she was only a high schooler then) – the relationship between mother and daughter was strained (at best) after that. It seems that Harriette, for all of her immense charm and allure, was simply not a maternal woman. She was competitive, even with her own daughter, and too much of an egoist to really care about other people. Sadly, she never managed to outgrow this fatal flaw of hers, and both her daughter and her grandchildren felt it keenly.
Harriette married her third husband, Roy Price Steckler on September 11, 1959, in Las Vegas, Nevada. Steckler was born on January 1, 1926, in New York, to Samuel and Stella Steckler. His father was a wealthy druggist and drug store owner – the family lived in Park Avenue and employed two servants in the 1930s. Little is known about the marriage and they divorced him in the 1960s.
Harriette became very testy about her age as time went by. She and Stephanie would travel to Las Vegas and double date as sisters (weird!!). She forbade her granddaughter to call her grandma, and her own daughter never refered to her as mom. Nobody was sure how old she really was, and she kept her true age a secret until the day she died.
Harriette found work as a telephone sex therapist in the 1980’s and 1990s. She would lie about her age, counsel her client, and demand payment via credit card. She owned a black cat called Tuthancamon, which looked like a a miniature panther, and she grew a rare breed of orchids in her apartment. She was excentric, larger than life and one of a kind, and people adored her, for all her bad sides. (much information about Harriette comes from her granddaughter Jessica Queller’s fabulous memoir! Jessica was a writer for Gossip Girl series, and she’s a true gem!)
Harriette’s health declined in the 1990s, and she spend more and more time in the hospital.
Harriette Tarler died on November 18, 2001, in New York City.