Who Is She? Rochelle Hudson

HUDSON, ROCHELLE 4Guest blogger Rory B. writes:

THOSE GLORIOUS GLAMOUR YEARSOne day during the holidays, my mom asked what I’d like for Christmas. I pointed to a book titled Those Glorious Glamour Years: The Great Hollywood Costume Designs of the 1930s. Coincidentally Santa Claus delivered it. Through that book I learned about costume designers like Dolly Tree, Irene, Gwen Wakeling and Orry-Kelly, to name a few. I also learned about actresses unfamiliar to me at the time, Madeleine Carroll and Marian Marsh being my favorites based on their very pretty faces. It was also the first time I saw a photo of Rochelle Hudson, wearing a Herschel McCoy-designed, taffeta rose-patterned ingénue evening dress.

Other than that photo in the book, I haven’t paid much attention to Rochelle Hudson since then. Sometimes I’d remember her if I traveled to New Rochelle, New York. My friend graduated from the College of New Rochelle. I once worked with a Rachelle (not a typo but it sounds similar). Then Facebook came along. I love uploading photos of stars of yesteryear. I honor lesser known actresses like Gail Russell, Lynn Bari and Rochelle Hudson by posting their photos.

HUDSON, ROCHELLE 3Most of my contemporaries aren’t as interested in classic movies as I. They often don’t find actresses before the 1950s as sexy and beautiful, probably due to the coiffed hairstyles, glamorous polished make-up, and conservative bathing suits. The women look like grandma to them. Yet fresh-faced Rochelle Hudson seems to attract my contemporaries and younger. I get asked “Who is she?” or told “She looks modern.”

She sporadically worked in Hollywood from the 1930s to the ’60s. While her resumé is short, she worked through four decades. She’s not immediately associated with a particular film,  but she has been in critically and academically praised movies as well as cult classics.

She was in She Done Him Wrong (1933) with Mae West, Judge Priest (1934) and three other films with Will Rogers, the 1935 Shirley Temple hit Curly Top, and as Claudette Colbert’s daughter in the original Imitation of Life (1934), a film dealing with race relations. World War II came, her movie career took a rest and then resumed after the war. She worked on TV before landing the mother role to Natalie Wood’s character in the 1955 teen classic Rebel Without a Cause. Hudson was no longer the freshly-scrubbed ingénue but when one sees the brunette ingénue Natalie Wood, one can see how easy it was to cast Rochelle Hudson as the mother. Natalie Wood, too, had a modern face, attracting the admiration of younger generations.

HUDSON, ROCHELLE 2In the 1960s, Hudson married her fourth and last husband, a hotel executive. At the Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention, a vendor told me she made the 1964 horror movies The Night Walker and cult favorite Strait-Jacket (both directed by William Castle) and 1967’s Gallery of Horror to keep busy, to be on set. She didn’t need the money.

I won’t go into great detail on her WWII espionage work as a civilian with her second husband, reserve officer Hal Thompson (read more about it here). Rochelle Hudson is truly an enigma of Hollywood history. She’s babrely remembered, but was in some very memorable films over the course of four decades. Her face is hardly recognized, but it attracts modern day admirers. Her being a spy only adds to her allure for those who ask “Who is she?”

Rory has been a classic movie fan since the age of six. She has ambitions to teach classic film courses to younger generations (meaning under 80 years old). Visit her website at Bunnybun’s Classic Movie Blog.