Katalin Karády was a pretty big star in her native Hungary, with a career that mirrored her Hollywood counterparts of the time. She gained the persona of “diva” and “sex symbol” after her 1939 debut in the film Halálos Tavasz (“Deadly Spring”). Katalin was also a popular vocalist. Her songs were heard frequently on Hungarian radio. She became a cultural icon, with thousands of female fans mimicking her fashion style, her hairstyle and her attitude. Katalin was a constant topic of gossip in the press, with regular speculation regarding her sexual orientation.
After the 1944 German invasion of Hungary, Katalin’s films and songs were banned. The film on which she was working, Gazdátlan asszony (“Orphan Woman“), had its production shut down. Katalin was arrested by the Gestapo as an alleged spy and put in prison for three years. During her prison term, Katalin was subjected to torture and beatings that nearly ended her life. She was rescued by associates of a high-ranking military officer with whom Katalin once had a relationship. Once out of prison, she assisted in the rescue and hiding of Hungarian Jews, including saving a group of 20 Jewish children from being murdered on the banks of the Danube during the Arrow Cross reign of terror.
Katalin attempted to restart her acting career, but the Communist run industry was not interested. To avoid further mistreatment and beatings, she fled Hungary, making her way to Austria, Switzerland, Brussels and eventually the United States, with the assistance of Ted and Robert Kennedy. She moved to New York City, opened a hat store and stayed out of the public eye. She refused to talk about her film career and her heroic post-film career. The government of Hungary sent her an invitation to return to her home country for her 70th birthday. She replied by sending a single hat, baffling government officials.
Katalin passed away in February 1990 at the age of 79. In 2004, she was posthumously honored with the Righteous Among the Nations recognition, given to non-Jews by the State of Israel who risked their lives during the Holocaust to save Jews from extermination by the Nazis.
What if someone wanted to put Baby in a corner in 1944?
For the better part of six years, Joanna Lee struggled through an unfulfilling acting career, landing few roles of little significance. She appeared uncredited in the Frank Sinatra film The Joker is Wild, as well as Ed Wood’s notorious sci-fi schlockfest Plan 9 from Outer Space. A serious car accident sidelined Joanna’s acting career, but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
Joanna explored her previously untapped talent as a writer. She secured some writing assignments for the popular sitcom My Three Sons, three years into its successful 12 season run. Joanna jumped right in to the world of episodic television, writing scripts or teleplays for such shows as Bewitched, Gidget, Petticoat Junction and many others. She penned 22 episodes of the animated series The Flintstones, including the sixth season episode that introduced the character “The Great Gazoo.”
Joanna’s story output was phenomenal. She wrote scripts for multiple episodes of Gilligan’s Island, Nanny & the Professor, Room 222, The Courtship of Eddie’s Father, even branching out into dramas, like Marcus Welby M.D. and The Waltons. The latter earned her an Emmy Award in 1972. Joanna wrote the memorable “Adios Johnny Bravo” episode of The Brady Bunch.
As the 70s approached, Joanna scripted several made-for-television movies and afterschool specials. In the 80s, she served as producer for more television films, in addition to 152 installments of the soap opera Search for Tomorrow.
The 1990s saw her career slow down, but not before releasing her autobiography in 1999. Joanna developed bone cancer and passed away in 2003 at the age of 72.
What if the wedding massacre took place in 1938?
Seventeen-year old Marvel Rea joined up with the Keystone Film Company, landing a spot among the famed Sennett Bathing Beauties, a celebrated group of young ladies assembled by producer Mack Sennett. The Bathing Beauties made promotional appearances for the movie studio and were well received where ever they went. Marvel made her film debut in 1918 alongside Ford Sterling in the Hollywood satire Her Screen Idol. She went on to make over two dozen silent films in a five year period.
Marvel married in 1918, but accusations of physical abuse and rampant drug use by her husband ended the union after just a month.
Just before Labor Day 1936, Marvel was walking alone down 107th Street and Compton Avenue in Los Angeles. Three young men in a red truck slowed down to Marvel’s walking pace. One of the men offered Marvel a ride home. Marvel politely refused the offer. Instead of driving away, the men attacked her. They grabbed Marvel, threw her into the back of the truck and sped off. They eventually stopped at a secluded wooded area fifteen blocks away. The men first beat Marvel then — one by one — raped her. Marvel suffered a seizure during the attack, which startled her assailants. They fled the scene, leaving her as she drifted in and out of consciousness. Marvel lay for four hours until she could gather enough strength to seek help.
The three men were found and arrested by police, charged with kidnapping and assault. All three denied the accusations. In early 1937, the trio of attackers were sentenced to up to fifty years for their crimes. After serving only three years, they were released on technicalities that occurred during their trial.
Just nine months after the brutal attack, Marvel purposely ingested insecticide and took her own life. She was 35 years old.
What if there were Griswolds before National Lampoon?