Helen Gahagan

Helen Gahagan
Associated Press


Helen Gahagan
Film: East side of the 1700 block of Vine Street
Born Nov. 25, 1900 in New Jersey, NJ
Died June 28, 1980 of cancer in New York, NY

Helen Gahagan Douglas was an actress-turned-congresswoman who lost the 1950 U.S. Senate race in California to Richard M. Nixon in one of the most vitriolic campaigns in the state's history.

The Jersey-born Democrat was a stage star and operatic singer who moved to the California film community and eventually to California politics. She was a three-term congresswoman whose McCarthy-era votes against funding for the House Un-American Activities Committee and opposition to contempt citations for the "Hollywood Ten" prompted opponents — including Nixon — to label her "soft on Communism."

That charge, and the nickname "pink lady," which clung to her throughout the campaign, lost her the Senate race and ended her political career.

She started her theater career in 1922 in "Dreams for Sale" and went on to appear in "Trelawney of the Wells" and "Mary of Scotland." She took voice lessons that led to her to the operatic stage, where she sang in three languages and on two continents.

She performed in "Aida" and "Tosca" in Vienna, Budapest and Prague before returning to the United States in the 1930s for a Hollywood Bowl engagement. While she was performing in "Tonight or Never" in 1930 she met actor Melvyn Douglas, whom she married in 1931.

The only film she starred in was "She" (1935), about a goddess queen.

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