Barbara Weeks: Of WAMPAS, Westerns and Ed Wood

Today we salute actress Barbara Weeks (Susan Kingsley, 1913-2003).

Weeks is often confused with another actress of the same name who appeared in five Broadway plays from 1927 to 1936, was a star of radio and died in 1954. (In fact she died on the same holiday on which today’s Barbara Weeks was born, July 4, so we salute her inadvertently as well). At any rate, this Weeks was a Ziegfeld girl on stage from age 13, landing in the film version of his production Whoopee! (1930) starring Eddie Cantor, now as a Goldwyn Girl. By Cantor’s next film Palmy Days (1931), she was one of the female leads. Another early comedy she appeared in was Fifty Million Frenchmen (1951) with Olsen and Johnson. In 1931 Weeks was named one of the WAMPAS Baby Stars, and she briefly had fairly good supporting parts in major pre-code drama like Illicit (1931) with Barbara Stanwyck and The Night Mayor (1932) with Lee Tracy. But her parts in major films quickly frittered down to bit roles, and she was relegated to playing the female leads in B movie westerns starring the likes of Buck Jones, Tim McCoy, Charles Starrett, and Tom Tyler. For a time she was married to Big Boy Williams. In interviews Weeks blamed her change in status on the fact that he prime promoter (Flo Ziegfled) had died in 1932, and she wouldn’t join the big studio heads on the casting couch.

In 1938 Weeks married a test pilot named Lewis Parker and left movies a couple of years later. In 1945, Parker’s plane went down over the North Atlantic. Weeks (then still in her early 30s) became a model in new York. In the mid 1950s she appeared in two low budget exploitation pictures: the Ed Wood-penned The Violent Years (1956) and Gun Girls (1957). Her last years were spent living in Las Vegas.

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