Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Ziegfeld Girls III

There were hundreds of Ziegfeld Girls...but I am only going to highlight the ones that really pique my interest. But, I HIGHLY recommend the book Jazz Age Beauties: the lost collection of Ziegfeld photographer Alfred Cheney Johnston by Robert Hudovernik. I need to buy it myself actually, but I have checked it out thousands of times from my work and just look at the beautiful pictures. They are truly breathtaking. You will also see some familiar faces like Gloria Swanson, Norma Shearer, Clara Bow and see some new faces as well. Some aren't even named which is sad because they are just breathtaking.

Two other great books that I just love to look at are The Ziegfeld Touch: the life and times of Florenz Ziegfeld Jr. by Richard Ziegfeld and Ziegfeld Follies by Marjorie Farnsworth.

Anyways, down to business. I introduce you now to Miss Jessie Reed. Another Ziegfeld beauty who was plagued by the Ziegfeld "curse." She had a great career with stardom and rich suitors, but died penniless and alone. I was drawn to her because, well, we share the same I gotta connect with her on that level.

Like Myrna Darby, I don't know much about Jessie's early life, like where she was born, her birth date, etc.

Jessie first appeared on stage in 1918 when she was discovered by Jake Schubert. She was quickly stolen away by Florenz Ziegfeld who put her in his 1919 edition of the Midnight Frolic...the more "risque" version of the Follies.

She continued to work on the rooftop, but also appeared in the Ziegfeld Follies from 1921 until 1924. Talk about being a busy girl!

Busy girl is right! Jessie soon became more famous (or infamous) for her life OFF the stage. If I may quote the moronic Kanye West..."I ain't sayin' she a gold digger." But...actions speak louder than words. I will give her credit for the fact that she didn't apologize for any of her actions, she knew who she was and what she was doing.

Jessie had her fair share of suitors and husbands for that matter. Her first marriage was to a black face comedian named Oliver de Brow. The two had a daughter named Ann. Apparently the two divorced after Oliver killed a man in a duel, which is a pretty good reason to divorce someone.

Her second "supposed" marriage was to another performer named Lew Reed. I have read conflicting reports as to whether they were actually married or if they were just living together for a time. After that, she married advertisement executive, Bill Young. After him was millionaire Dan Caswell.

Her last husband was named Leonard Reno, who actually visited her in the hospital before she died. He and even his new wife donated blood to try and save Jessie's life. Obviously, none of the marriages lasted. Her ex-husbands found her to be greedy, manic, and too high maintenance.

By 1935, Jessie was alone and broke. She got a few dollars from various theater charities every once in awhile that kept her fed and clothed.

Jessie Reed passed away at age 42. She became a moral lesson to young girls about what happens when you become too spoiled.

Apparently she was buried at either Oliver/Olivet Cemetery. I am not sure of the state, but I think it is in New York.

Annie de Brow

Her daughter, Annie de Brow was actually going to audition for the Follies in 1932, but Ziegfeld passed away. She and her mother were not close, in fact Jessie rarely even talked about her. She was sent away as a baby to live with Oliver de Brow's family in Texas. I believe I read that Annie passed away sometime in the 1970s.


  1. Hi Jess! It's your Facebook Pal, Nancy Valentino. I was doing my internet research on Jessie Reed and I came across your site. Great post! What a tragic ending to Jessie's life :(

  2. Hey Nancy! That is pretty cool that my blog popped up!

    Jessie did have a very sad ending. Excess leads to a bad ending in most cases. I just love her because a) she was a Ziegfeld Girl and sounded like fun, and b) her name was Jessie :)

  3. Jessie Reed died in Chicago, Illinois in September 1940, and she is also buried there.

    Here is part of her death certificate:

    No image available

    * Search collection
    * About this collection

    Name: Jessie Reed
    Titles and Terms (original):
    Death Date: 18 Sep 1940
    Death Place: Chicago, Cook, Illinois
    Gender: Female
    Marital Status:
    Race or Color:
    Age: 42
    Estimated Birth Year: 1898
    Birth Date:
    Father: Jessie Richard
    Father's Titles and Terms (original):
    Father's Birth Place:

  4. Thank you for in the info, Kathy. Much appreciated! Do you happen to know which cemetery, or what name she is buried under?

    1. Hi Again,
      Jessie Reed is buried at Mt. Olivet Cemetery . The services were held at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church on the north side.

      Theresa G

  5. Hi,
    I came across your blog and I hope the following info helps: She was born in Houston ,Texas and she died Chicago, Cook, Illinois .You can find the cemetery info and hopeful other important info on her death record which can be purchased at
    Theresa G

  6. Thank you Theresa! I am currently working on updating previous entries with more information, and I will certainly include the info you have given me about Jessie, and the others. Thank you so much for reading and helping me out :)

  7. Hi Jessica,
    Here is a newspaper article about Jessie Reed's death. I hope it helps. If you highlight the link then copy and paste in a new tab/window you be bought to the article.

    Theresa G

  8. Here is one I found.