Elyse Knox: Designing Woman

Given that my ordinary beat is old time performers, I learned about Elyse Knox (Elsie Kornbrath, 1917-2012) the wrong way ’round. One of her daughters married Ricky Nelson and gave birth to their famous children. and her son married Pam Dawber of Mork and Mindy!

But Elyse had a career in her own right. Initially she was a fashion designer. Modeling her own creations in the pages of magazines got her noticed by Hollywood and she began to get cast in movies. She’s in over three dozen films including Lillian Russell (1940, as Russell’s sister), Girl From Avenue A (1940), The Mummy’s Tomb (1942), Hay Foot (1942, with Sawyer and Tracy), Follow the Boys (1944), and a half dozen of the Joe Palooka movies. Her last film was the appropriately titled Forgotten Women (1949).

In 1944 Knox married football star Tom Harmon in a self-designed dress made out of the parachute he’d used to bail out of a plane in the jungle during World War Two. It was with Harmon that she settled down to raise her famous family.

For more on show business history, please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous