LOUELLA PARSONS Biography - People in the News and Media


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Name: Louella Parsons                                                                   
Born: 6 August 1881                                                                     
Died: 9 December 1972                                                                   
Louella Parsons (August 6, 1881 - December 9, 1972) was an American gossip               
She was born Louella Rose Oettinger in Freeport, Illinois, the daughter of               
Joshua Oettinger (1859-May 26, 1890) and Helen Stein (born November 1859), both         
of whom were Jewish. She had two brothers, Edwin Oettinger (May 1885-October             
1962) and Fred Oettinger (May 20, 1887-July 7, 1888), and a sister, Rae                 
Oettinger (August 26, 1889-December 1, 1889).                                           
In 1890, her widowed mother married John H. Edwards (born March 1858). They             
lived in Dixon, Illinois, later hometown of Ronald Reagan. While still in high           
school, Louella Oettinger obtained her first newspaper job when she became drama         
editor for the Dixon Morning Star.                                                       
She and her first husband, John Parsons, moved to Burlington, Iowa. She was a           
lonely and unhappy Iowa housewife who hated small-town life. Her only child,             
Harriet (August 23, 1906-January 2, 1983), who grew up to become a film producer,       
was born there. While in Burlington, Parsons saw her first motion picture, The           
Great Train Robbery (1903).                                                             
When her marriage broke up, Parsons moved to Chicago where she began writing             
movie scripts for Essanay Studios, once the home of Charlie Chaplin. Her small           
daughter, Harriet, was billed as "Baby Parsons" in several movies, which                 
included The Magic Wand (1912), written by Louella Parsons. She also wrote a             
book titled How to Write for the Movies.                                                 
In 1914, she began writing the first movie gossip column in the United States           
for the Chicago Record-Herald. William Randolph Hearst bought that newspaper in         
1918 and Parsons was out of a job, as Hearst had not yet discovered that movies         
and movie personalities were news. Parsons then moved to New York and started           
working for the New York Morning Telegraph writing a similar movie column, which         
attracted the attention of Hearst. In 1922, after some shrewd bargaining on both         
sides, she signed a contract and joined the Hearst newspaper the New York               
Parsons had three husbands, real estate developer John Dement Parsons (married           
1905-divorced 1914), John McCaffrey, Jr. (married 1915-divorced) and surgeon             
Henry W. Martin, whom she called "Docky," (married 1926-his death 1964).                 
In 1925, Parsons contracted tuberculosis and was told she had six months to live.       
She moved to Arizona for the change in climate, then to Los Angeles, where she           
decided to stay.                                                                         
With the disease in remission, she went back to work, becoming a syndicated             
Hollywood columnist for Hearst. As she and the publishing mogul had developed an         
ironclad relationship, her Los Angeles Examiner column came to appear in over           
six hundred newspapers the world over, with a readership of more than twenty-million,   
and Parsons gradually became one of the most powerful voices in the movie               
business with her daily allotment of gossip. According to Hearst's mistress and         
protegĂ© Marion Davies in her posthumously published memoirs The Times We Had,           
Parsons had encouraged readers to "give this girl a chance" while the majority           
of critics disparaged Davies; it was on this basis that Hearst hired Parsons.           
She was especially known for her uncanny ability to scoop her competitors with           
the juiciest stories and for knowing all the secrets of everyone in screendom.           
She was associated with various Hearst enterprises for the rest of her career.           
Parsons also wrote the story for the movie Isle of Forgotten Women (1927), which         
was produced at Columbia by Harry Cohn.                                                 
Beginning in 1928, she hosted a weekly radio program featuring movie star               
interviews that was sponsored by SunKist. A similar program in 1931 was                 
sponsored by Charis Foundation Garment. In 1934, she signed a contract with the         
Campbell's Soup Company and began hosting a program titled Hollywood Hotel,             
which showcased stars in scenes from their upcoming movies.                             
Parsons established herself as the social and moral arbiter of Hollywood. Her           
judgments were considered the final word in most cases, and her disfavor was             
feared more than that of movie critics. Her column was followed religiously and         
thus afforded her a unique type and degree of power.                                     
Her formidable power remained unchallenged until 1937, when Hedda Hopper, a             
struggling character actress since the days of silent movies, whom Parsons had           
been kind to and mentioned occasionally in her column, and who had returned the         
favor by giving Parsons information on others, was hired to be a gossip                 
columnist by one of Hearst's rival newspapers. Parsons and Hopper then became           
arch-rivals and had a notorious feud.                                                   
Parsons also appeared in numerous cameo spots in movies, including Hollywood             
Hotel (1938), Without Reservations (1946) and Starlift (1951).                           
In 1944, she wrote her memoirs, The Gay Illiterate, published by Doubleday,             
Doran and Company, which became a bestseller. That was followed by another               
volume in 1961, Tell It To Louella, published by G.P. Putnam's Sons.                     
By the 1960s, her influence had waned. She officially stopped writing her column         
in December 1965, which was taken over by her assistant, Dorothy Manners, who           
was said to have been writing it for more than a year.                                   
In later years, Parsons lived in a nursing home. She died of arteriosclerosis at         
the age of ninety-one in Santa Monica, California. Her funeral mass was attended         
by several stars of the movie industry. She is interred in Holy Cross Cemetery,         
Culver City Culver City, California, as somewhere along the line she became a           
Roman Catholic, who expressed anti-Semitic sentiments, notwithstanding the fact         
that her own parents had been Jewish.                                                   
Louella Parsons has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Hollywood; one           
for motion pictures at 6418 Hollywood Boulevard and one for radio at 6300               
Hollywood Boulevard.