Jan. 8, 1947: Judge Denies ‘Hollywood’ Divorce for Actress Virginia Engels ‘The Orchid Queen’

Nancy, Jan. 8, 1947

Note: This is a post I wrote in 2006 for the 1947project.

Jan. 8, 1947: The apartment was so small that her husband, James Robert Dennis, asked her to go home to live with her parents. He said he’d call but she didn’t hear from him for four days. She gave him $300 to build a prefabricated house on one of his lots in Benedict Canyon but he put it into his business. He agreed to a divorce.

But not in Judge Charles S. Burnell’s court. There would be no divorce for Virginia Engels, “Miss Los Angeles, 1940,” “Miss Streamline” and “The Orchid Queen.”

“This is a typical motion picture divorce,” he lectured her from the bench. “It’s in keeping with the Hollywood idea of giving the marriage no fair trial. Inability to get a house is affecting a large part of the population but it is not grounds for a divorce.

“She said they agreed upon getting a divorce. This is collusion. Decree denied,” Burnell said.

Engels eventually managed to get a divorce and was married to Charles H. Brown by the time she was arrested for drunk driving in 1950, about the time she appeared in the movie “Caged.”

Four years later, she was accused of stabbing Brown, a parking lot attendant, to death during a fight in their apartment at 6027 Barton Ave. The autopsy found that Brown was stabbed in the heart and had a blood-alcohol level of 0.15% Engels said that Brown beat her constantly and had broken her shoulder in two places by stomping on her.

Retried after her first prosecution ended in a hung jury, Engels was acquitted Jan. 10, 1955. She died of meningitis, forgotten and alone, around Dec. 5, 1956, in her apartment at 5200 Marathon St. The landlady checked on Engels after not seeing her for several days and found her lying on the floor next to the bed. She had been dead for some time. Engels was 39.

Three-bullet items:

Abbott and Costello top the Treasury Department’s list of highest-paid people, earning a total of $469,170 ($4,440,312.13 USD 2005)… IBM President Thomas J. Watson is the highest sole earner, with $425,548 and Deanna Durbin is third at $310,728… Chemicals used in Dr. George Edwards’ experiments on inventing a heart monitor may have killed him…A 66-car pileup at Sepulveda and Vermont is blamed on heavy fog… Teta Oglesby tells police she was just kidding when she wired her jailed boyfriend that she would be bringing him a cake with a file hidden in it…. Anthony Whittley shakes the hand of Officer Joseph C. Tucker who shot Whittley’s son, Arthur when he ran away from a car he had stolen. The younger Whittley lingered about a day before dying. “I hope you go the same way and suffer the same way,” his father says… Car dealer Robert E. Vaughn and two of his salesmen are sentenced to 1 to 10 years in San Quentin for price-gouging.

Quote of the day: “He acts the way Saroyan writes, though with a harsher critical note.”
Philip K. Scheuer, on the West Coast debut of Danny Thomas at Slapsy Maxie’s.

About lmharnisch

I am retired from the Los Angeles Times
This entry was posted in 1947, Art & Artists, Crime and Courts, Hollywood and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Jan. 8, 1947: Judge Denies ‘Hollywood’ Divorce for Actress Virginia Engels ‘The Orchid Queen’

  1. Buzz McEntire says:

    Another great article. I love how the addresses are included so you really get a picture of it all.


  2. Benito says:

    Miss Streamline is a great beauty contest title, equal to Jayne Mansfield’s titles Miss Fill Er Up and something about grapefruits. Sadly, I found only a few photos of Miss Engels


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