Who is she? Rochelle Hudson
One day during the holidays, my mom asked what I’d like for Christmas. I pointed to a book titled Those Glorious Glamour Years: The Great Hollywood Costume Designs of the 1930s. Coincidentally Santa Claus delivered it. Through that book I learned about costume designers like Dolly Tree, Irene, Gwen Wakeling, and Orry-Kelly to name a few. I also learned about actresses unfamiliar to me at the time, Madeleine Carroll and Marian Marsh being my favorites based on their very pretty faces. It was also the first time I saw a photo of Rochelle Hudson, wearing a Herschel McCoy-designed taffeta rose-patterned ingenue evening dress.
Other than that photo in the book, I haven’t paid much attention to Rochelle Hudson since then. Sometimes I’d remember her if I traveled to New Rochelle, New York. My friend graduated from the College of New Rochelle. I once worked with a Rachelle (not a typo but it sounds similar). Then Facebook came. I love uploading photos of stars of yesteryear. I honor lesser known actresses like Gail Russell, Lynn Bari and Rochelle Hudson by posting their photos.
Most of my contemporaries aren’t as interested in classic movies as I. They often don’t find actresses before the 1950s as sexy and beautiful, probably due to the coiffed hairstyles, glamorous polished make-up, and conservative bathing suits. The women look like grandma to them. Yet fresh-faced Rochelle Hudson seems to attract my contemporaries and younger. I get asked “Who is she?” or told “She looks modern.”
She sporadically worked in Hollywood from the 1930s-60s. While her resume is short, she worked through 4 decades. She’s not immediately associated with a particular film but she has been in critically and academically praised movies as well as cult classics.
She was in She Done Him Wrong with Mae West, Judge Priest with Will Rogers, the Shirley Temple hit, Curly Top and Imitation of Life (1934), a film dealing with race relations. World War 2 came, her movies took a rest and then resumed after the war. She worked on TV before landing the mother role of Natalie Wood’s character in teen classic Rebel Without a Cause. Hudson was no longer the freshly-scrubbed ingenue but when one sees the brunette ingenue Natalie Wood, one can see how easy it was to cast Rochelle Hudson as the mother. Natalie Wood too had a modern face attracting the admiration of younger generations.
In the 1960s, Hudson married her last husband, a hotel executive. At the Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention, a vendor told me she made the horror movies; The Night Walker, Gallery of Horror and cult favorite Strait-Jacket directed by William Castle, to keep busy, to be on set. She didn’t need the money.
I won’t go into great detail as this article link explains her WW2 espionage work as a civilian with her second husband, reserve officer Hal Thompson. Rochelle Hudson is truly an enigma of Hollywood history. She’s hardly remembered but was in very memorable films spanning 4 decades. Her face is hardly recognized but it attracts modern day admirers. Her being a spy only adds to her allure for those who ask “Who is she?”