Ona Munson (Owena Wolcott)

Ona Munson

Ona Munson was born Owena Wolcott in Portland, Oregon. She first came to fame on Broadway as the singing and dancing ingenue in the original production of No, No, Nanette. From this, Munson had a very successful stage and radio career in the 1930s in New York. She introduced the song “You’re the Cream in My Coffee” in the 1927 Broadway musical Hold Everything. Her first starring role was in a Warner Brothers talkie called Going Wild (1930). Originally, this film was intended as musical, but all the numbers were removed prior to release due to the public’s distaste for musicals which had virtually saturated the cinema in 1929-1930. Munson appeared the next year in The Hot Heiress, in which she sings several songs along with her co-star Ben Lyon. She also starred in Broadminded (1931) and Five Star Final (1931). She briefly retired from the screen, only to return in 1938. When David O. Selznick was casting his production Gone with the Wind, he first announced that Mae West was to play Belle, but this was a publicity stunt. Tallulah Bankhead refused the role as too small. Munson herself was the antithesis of the voluptuous Belle: freckled and of slight build. Ona Munson’s career was stalemated by the acclaim of Gone with the Wind; for the remainder of her career, she was typecast in similar roles. Two years later, she played a huge role as another madam, albeit a Chinese one, in Josef von Sternberg’s film noir The Shanghai Gesture. Her last film was The Red House, released in 1947. Ona Munson’s work on radio included co-starring (as Lorelei) with Edward G. Robinson on Big Town. For her contribution to the motion picture industry, Ona Munson has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6211 Hollywood Boulevard. In 1955, plagued by ill health, she committed suicide at the age of 51 with an overdose of barbiturates in her apartment in New York. A note found next to her deathbed read, “This is the only way I know to be free again…Please don’t follow me.” Ona Munson posthumously received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, located on the north side of the 6200 block of Hollywood Boulevard.

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Born

  • June, 16, 1903
  • USA
  • Portland, Oregon

Died

  • February, 11, 1955
  • USA
  • New York, New York

Cause of Death

  • suicide by barbiturate overdose

Cemetery

  • Ferncliff Cemetery and Mausoleum
  • Hartsdale, New York
  • USA

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