Thursday, November 7, 2013

Corliss Palmer, The Million Dollar Beauty

Every girl is born a princess, blessed by the fairies with beauty, health, joy, the same time, the evil fairy also was present with her curse.

--Corliss Palmer, "In League With the Fairies", Motion Picture Magazine, March 1921

Corliss Palmer was aimlessly thumbing through a fan magazine, just like any other teenager, when something caught her eye:  an unassuming little column at the back of the book, announcing the “Fame and Fortune Contest” for 1920.

“Fame and fortune,” she thought to herself.  “Could you just imagine?”  She could see herself swathed in furs, eating at the finest restaurants, admiring the diamond bracelet on her wrist – and the man on her arm. 

She was pretty, this she already knew.  So did everyone else, since she was crowned “Miss Georgia Peach”.  Sending a photo in seemed like a long shot, but it was worth a try, right?  She cut the coupon out of the ad and set to work.


Eugene Brewster, publisher of Motion Picture Magazine, sat listlessly at the heavy wood table.  He’d been rifling through the photos for that infernal contest all morning; he was tired, bored, and his patience was wearing thin.  Until he saw this:

Brewster was known for his eye for the ladies, but he had never seen one like her before.  He was speechless.  He was smitten.

He was also married. 

Had been since 1916.  At that moment, though, his wife was the furthest thing from his mind.


So begins the tale of Palmer and Brewster, a sordid little story all too common then – and now. 

Corliss would (surprise!) go on to win the “Fame and Fortune Contest” and was touted as “The Most Beautiful Woman in America”.  Her photos took up a good chunk of the publication.  She’s mentioned so frequently that, if you didn't know better, you’d think her the most famous woman in Hollywood! 

She appeared in a few films, most of which are lost and/or forgotten, save one comedy short: BROMO AND JULIET (1926), featuring a pre-Laurel Oliver Hardy and considered one of Charley Chase’s best.  

[image courtesy Fandor]

Brewster continued to make Corliss his personal project.  He founded a studio for her, CORLISS PALMER PRODUCTIONS, and gave her a (almost certainly ghostwritten) monthly beauty column in Motion Picture Magazine.  These columns led to a spinoff publication, BEAUTY, with you-know-who on the cover.  All his time was tied up in Corliss…and, by this time, the two had become a romantic item as well.

[image courtesy eBay]

“But Jennifer!” you might be saying.  “Didn’t you say he was married?”

Yes he was, Dear Reader.  Eleanor Brewster was NOT happy with the way things were going, calling Corliss “beautiful but dumb” and “nothing but trouble”.   You can't blame her;  Brewster continued to funnel money into Corliss, creating a cosmetics line he heavily promoted in his magazine...

...and buying her a $250,000 mansion to live in (with her mother, of course).  This house was the last straw:

Let him buy whatever houses he wants.  Let him move all over the country.  Let him get a divorce from me.  I'll let him -- at last!  But it will cost him EVERY CENT he has, and that means quite a lot of money.  No woman has ever been through such racking mental stress, such spiritual agony, as I have.  And I intend to see that I get some recompense. 
--"Woes of Lovesick Brewster." Buffalo Sunday Courier, circa 1924.

Eleanor sued for alienation of affection, naming Corliss as co-respondent, and the Brewsters divorced in 1926.  That October, Brewster and Palmer were married.

[image courtesy Fanpix]

From here, things went downhill rapidly.  After the success of BROMO AND JULIET, the rest of Corliss' films did poorly.  Didn't help that Eleanor was true to her word, draining Eugene of most of his fortune.  By 1931, he had filed for bankruptcy (citing "bad investments") and he and Corliss were living in a tiny one-bedroom bungalow.  Not long after, Brewster asked Palmer for divorce.  She agreed, admitting that she never really loved him.

Corliss turned to alcohol to numb the pain and confusion of losing her entire world.

[image courtesy Pieces of our Past]

I was blinded by self-pity...I thought if someone pitied me, they would again give me the fame, love, and fortune that I had let slip through my fingers.

While she did find true love towards the end of her life with Bill Taylor, a rodeo cowboy, she never truly came back from the spectacular rise and fall of the Brewster years.  Corliss Palmer died in 1952, in a California state hospital for the mentally ill.  She was only 50.

[image courtesy Movieart]

Bonus:  Fashion News of 1928.  Skip to 1:44 to see Corliss.

Other Sources:

The Most Beautiful Girl in the World / Love at the End of the Rainbow: Corliss Palmer - An Epilogue -- posted by Scott Thompson at PIECES OF OUR PAST

Lowe, Denise. An Encyclopedic Dictionary of Women in Early American Films, 1895-1930. New York: Haworth, 2005.

"Husband Broke, Beauty Still at Side".  Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, August 7, 1931.

Slide, Anthony. Inside the Hollywood Fan Magazine: A History of Star Makers, Fabricators, and Gossip Mongers. Jackson: University of Mississippi, 2010

Corliss Palmer -- IMDb

All images (unless otherwise noted) courtesy the Media History Digital Library.


Jeannette Rook said...

Here true Name and Identity
Helen Caroline Palmer
Born: July 25, 1899 Edison Calhoun County Georgia.

She was the Second Child of Luther Martin Palmer and Julia Alma Farrell.

I found her in 1900 Federal Census with her parents taken June 22, 1900 a month before her first birthday.

I found all of her siblings

Her mother Had a total of nine Children

Issues With Luther

Mary E. [nee' Preston]
Helen Caroline [nee' Brewster and Taylor]
Emma Innes [nee's Purtell]
Hoke Smith Palmer
Gary Watterson Palmer
Stanton Luther Palmer

Issues With James M. Simone
Katherine AKA Palmer
James Calvin AKA Palmer
Julia AKA Palmer

Julia changed her last children's name to her 1st husbands. She ran away from her second Husband James M. Simone. Big Scandalous for Corliss when her mother was hiding out from her Stepfather.

Jeannette K. ROok

Flapper Flickers + Silent Stanzas said...

Thank you so much Jeannette, this is fascinating! I wonder why she ran away from her second husband.

Jeannette Rook said...

2. Helen Caroline Palmer
Stage Name: Corliss Palmer
Born: July 25, 1899 Edison Calhoun County Georgia
Died: August 27, 1952 Camarillo, Ventura California
Spouse: Eugene Valentine Brewster 1st
William M. “Billy” Taylor 2nd
Parents: Luther Martin Palmer
Julia Alma Farrell
Occupation: Cigar seller/Model/Spokesperson/Actress/Cosmetics Saleswoman
Cause of Death: Death Record Pending
Age at Death: YRS: 53 MOS: 1 DYS: 2
Date of Burial:
Death Certificate#:
Find A. Grave Memorial# 6644129
Interment: Woodlawn Cemetery; Santa Monica Los Angeles County California, USA

• C Medina Palmer
• Corliss Modena Palmer
• Carliss Brewster
• Carliss Modena
• Carliss Palmer
• Corliss Modena Martin
• Corliss Modena Palmer
• Caroline Palmer
• Helen Corliss Palmer
• Caudis
• Corliss M. Taylor

Corliss was not a dumb woman. In fact she was the 1st line of the Ann Nichol Smith.

She also had a scum bag for a mother.

For example when the money ran dry. Julia decides and the death or her son Hoke Smith Palmer who was wounded while serving in the military. she decides 15 years after his death to seek a pension.

I also found Bill the Second husband. I will know more once I get a his death record. He died 16 Mar 1998 Fremont California.

Now Corliss had a sister who did the same thing as she did. Getting involved with a married man.

Her name was Emma Innes Palmer. She went by Innes Felton. She was messing around with Automobile Salesman in New Jersey. They both ran off to California. And that was a huge article. She ended marrying George James Purtell.

Before she got involved with William M. Taylor. She was involved with another married man and again she was sued for messing with his affections. AJ Cohen who was a Tennis Player. However, he used her and stole from her.

Children of Luther Martin Palmer
Julia Alma Palmer

Mary E. [Preston][1897-1969]
Helen Caroline [Brewster and Taylor][1899-1952]
Emma Innes [Purtell][1903-1989]
Hoke Smith Palmer
Grady Watterson Palmer [1905-1950]
Stanton Luther Palmer [1908-1936]

Now the mother married a second time
James M. Simone.

She had three children with him
Katherine Simone AKA Palmer b. 1915
James Calvin Simone AKA Palmer

Julia Simone AKA Palmer b. 1920

William M. Taylor was born in October 7, 1909 in Indiana and his parents were William Taylor Sr. and Ester ?

I first found him and her in the 1940 Federal Census

I also found them in the Directory in Santa Monica CA in 1947

My angle is Genealogy. Somebody came to me and asked my to help with Corliss and within a week I found them all.

I am just waiting now on California to send the death records. I have also wrote to various libraries

Pulling Military Records, and divorce records.

Oh I meant to tell you when her mother got tired of being married to her second husband. She decides to take off with the children in 1922 and move in with her daughter and Eugene. Lived off her daughter. Now when things soured for Corliss her mother turned on her.

However, again the only who stood by her was her sister Katherine.

Jeannette K. Rook
PS Just think her life was like Anna Nichol Smith.

Jeannette Rook said...

Oh I have a nicer photo of Eugene and Corliss its clear as day and not fuzzy.

I blog about genealogy.

I have not posted anything yet on Corliss: I am waiting on the Vital Records.

If you like the photo just Email me.


Flapper Flickers + Silent Stanzas said...

Wow! Thank you so much for this Jeannette! :)

Jeannette Rook said...

The Picture you have posted for Corliss Palmer is actually Clara Bow. They were both beauty Contest Winners. One from the Peach State Corliss Palmer and One from the Apple State and that's Clara Bow.

Both Women had a little bit similar lives. Clara was also a Client of EV Brewster. As Model as Well.

Clara had the protection of over bearing abusive father. Robert Walter Bow

Corliss Palmer problem was her very greedy mother. Julia Alma Palmer Simmones.

Jeannette K. Rook

Jeannette Rook said...

Clara Bow

Flapper Flickers + Silent Stanzas said...

Jeannette, as always, I thank you for all the wonderful information you've unearthed! That photo, though, is definitely not Clara Bow. It came directly from an article about Corliss. If for some reason it isn't Miss Palmer, then who it actually is is a mystery.

Flapper Flickers + Silent Stanzas said...

Jeannette, if you're still out there, I'd love to talk about Corliss Palmer again with you. Please email me:

j_redmond -at- optimum -dot- net

Or comment here. I'll get it!

Thanks and Merry Christmas! :)

Jeannette Rook said...

My Email is jeannettekathleenrook[at]

I want you to know that Photo that you have at the top of you page is not Corliss Palmer. However Clara Bow. I have solid Genealogy on both Women. They were found by Eugene V. Brewster.

Jeannette K. Rook

Jeannette Rook said...

Yes I am still out here on this Universe. I cannot believe how fast this year went.

Merry Christmas and have a nice new year.


Jeannette Rook said...

Here is proof the picture is of Clara Bow


I also have book on Clara Bow and that Photo is in the Book about Clara Bow.

Jeannette K. Rook

Anonymous said...

With all due respect, much of your information concerning siblings is incorrect. Corliss is my great Aunt, my Grandmother's sister. I know the truth as I *personally* have known my family....Including my Great Grandmother, who by the way, was a wonderful and caring person.

Flapper Flickers + Silent Stanzas said...

Anonymous, can you please get in touch with me ASAP?

j_redmond -at-

I would very much like to talk with you. :)

Flapper Flickers + Silent Stanzas said...

Anonymous, if you're still out there, I'd love to talk in private.

j_redmond -at-