At the age of sixteen Linda Watkins’ parents sent her to study at the Theatre Guild. After six months she began to appear with the guild’s summer repertory program in Scarborough, New York. Instead of finishing her studies at the guild, she pursued a job at the office of Charles Hopkins. When he asked Watkins if she preferred playing comedy or drama, she replied, “Tragedy.” He was casting for a comedy production and Watkins was offered the lead role. Only seventeen, Watkins performed in the Tom Cushing comedy The Devil In The Cheese with Fredric March at the Charles Hopkins Theater in New York City. In 1928, she appeared in the Forest Theater production of Trapped by Samuel Shipman. She appeared in a revival of The Wild Duck in November 1928, starred in the George S. Kaufman/Ring Lardner comedy June Moon in 1929, and co-starred with Ralph Morgan in Sweet Stranger in 1930. She debuted in movies in Sob Sister (1931), a film in which she plays a female reporter. Reviewer Muriel Babcock remarked that Watkins “is cool, blond, poised, good to look upon. She plays the title role with admirable restraint and gives every evidence of being a comer in films.” Her second movie was Good Sport (1931), a screen adaptation of a story by William J. Hurlbut. Produced by the Fox Film Company, Watkins depicts Marilyn Parker, a naive wife caught up in a love triangle. Her co-stars were Alan Dinehart and John Boles. She appeared in Charlie Chan’s Chance, a lost 1932 film starring Warner Oland as the famous detective. Edmund Lowe and Watkins co-starred in Cheaters at Play (1932). Directed for Fox by Kenneth MacKenna, the motion picture was adapted from a story by Gene Towne. In 1938, Watkins also screen tested for the part of Scarlet O’Hara in the forthcoming Gone With The Wind (1939), however she was not selected. Her most famous and more recent film credits included The Parent Trap (the original) and Huckleberry Finn.
Watkins married film boards’ lawyer, Gabriel L. Hess, at the Blackstone Hotel in Chicago, on January 28, 1932. Hess was attorney for Will Hays and the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America. He got his start in the movie business with Samuel Goldwyn and Samuel Goldwyn Films. Watkins was a close friend of Hess’ first wife, Katherine Hawley. She was one of the first to send sympathy when Hawley was thrown from a horse and killed. Watkins and Hess had a son, Adam Hess, who was an attorney and secretary for the Aetna until his death in 1969; he left three daughters, Elizabeth, Faye, and Emily, the only grandchildren of Watkins. Watkins obtained her release from Fox prior to her marriage. A later romance with actor Tom Drake ended in 1959. Watkins appeared in numerous television broadcasts beginning with an episode of The Billy Rose Show in 1950. Other shows in which she performed are Wagon Train (1957), From Hell It Came (1957), Death Valley Days (1953), How to Marry a Millionaire (1958), M Squad (1957), Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1957–1958), Peter Gunn (1959), Perry Mason (1959), The David Niven Show (1959), The Adventures of Jim Bowie (1958), Gunsmoke (Season 4, Episode 23 “Sky”), Gunsmoke (Season 6, Episode 15 “Old Fool”), The Asphalt Jungle (1961), The Munsters, Hazel (1963-64), and The Doris Day Show (1968). She also appeared as Emily Hull, the mother of Sally McMillan (Susan St. James), in several episodes of McMillan & Wife. One of her last television appearances was as a guest star on The Waltons in 1973, in an episode titled “The Journey”. Linda Watkins died in Los Angeles in 1976.
- May, 23, 1908
- Boston, Massachusetts
- October, 31, 1976
- Los Angeles, California