Jinx Falkenburg

All-American cover girl and actress

Eugenia Lincoln Falkenburg (Jinx Falkenburg), model, actress and talk-show host: born Barcelona, Spain 21 January 1919; married 1945 Tex McCrary (died 2003; two sons); died Manhasset, New York 27 August 2003.

The hazel-eyed beauty Jinx Falkenburg was one of the highest-paid cover girls in the United States during the Second World War. She excelled in purveying the qualities of the All-American outdoor girl, and she was an expert swimmer and tennis player. Appropriately, she played herself in Columbia's hit musical about the modelling business, Cover Girl (1944), starring Rita Hayworth.

She also starred in several B movies before becoming, with her husband Tex McCrary, a pioneer of talk-show hosting on radio and television. In the mid-Fifties "Tex and Jinx" had two radio programmes, a five-day-a-week television show and a syndicated column in the New York Herald Tribune. Energy and enthusiasm were her trademarks - at the height of her career she said, "I still like to go to '21' and see the celebrities." Once asked for her own epitaph, she immediately wrote, "She died trying."

She was born Eugenia Lincoln Falkenburg in 1919 in Barcelona, where her father was working as a mining engineer. She was nicknamed Jinx by her mother, an accomplished amateur tennis player who knew the value of publicity. At the age of two, Jinx had a full-page picture story in the New York Sun about her exploits as a "baby swimmer". She was educated at Santiago College in Chile, where the Falkenburgs moved after Spain and then when the family settled in Los Angeles she attended the Hollywood High School, but left in 1935 to pursue acting and modelling.

Her first film roles were walk- on parts in Strike Me Pink (1936) and Nothing Sacred (1937). In 1937 the photographer Paul Hesse, whose work appeared regularly in The American Magazine, was captivated by "the most charming, most vital personality I have ever had the pleasure to photograph", and her face appeared on the magazine's cover in August 1937, prompting offers from over 60 other publications.

While on a modelling trip to Honolulu she fell through the roof of a hotel and during hospital treatment for her injuries she met Al Jolson, who was convalescing. Jolson offered her the part of a cowgirl in his Broadway show Hold on to Your Hats (1940). His wife Ruby Keeler had been set to co-star, but his affair with Falkenburg further weakened the already crumbling marriage, and Keeler left the show during its tryout tour.

Falkenburg's biggest break came the following year when Liebman Brewery, the makers of Rheingold beer, decided to start a yearly practice of bestowing the title "Miss Rheingold" on an attractive model. Falkenburg was the first, and it meant that her name and face were in every store in New York that sold beer.

Speaking fluent Spanish, she had already acted in some films made for the Latin American market, plus one serial, The Lone Ranger Rides Again (1939), in which she was billed as Jinx Falken, but now she was offered a Hollywood contract by Columbia. Sing for Your Supper (1941), in which she played a wealthy socialite, was the first of a dozen lightweight movies that included Lucky Legs (1942), She Has What It Takes (1943), Tahiti Nights (1945) and Meet Me on Broadway (1946). She had a possibly unique experience when she starred in Two Latins from Manhattan (1941) and just two years later played the same part in a remake, Two Señoritas from Chicago (1943).

Nine Girls (1944), a murder mystery set in a girls' college, was probably the best of these B films, with a strong cast, a good measure of suspense and a bright screenplay, but Falkenburg was never a critics' favourite. "I spent six years trying to get into pictures," she later said, "and even I wasn't very impressed with the end result."

In 1941 she met a reporter, Ted McCrary, when he was sent to interview her. After the war, during which Falkenburg travelled over 60,000 miles entertaining the troops and was awarded the Asiatic-Pacific campaign medal for her work, McCrary proposed and they were married in June 1945, settling in Long Island, where their friends included the millionaire Jock Whitney and his wife.

The following year they launched their first radio show together, called Hi, Jinx, broadcast on weekday mornings in New York. The programme quickly became a hit with audiences and critics due to its tackling of issues then controversial, such as venereal disease, the United Nations and the atom bomb.

In 1947 the couple made their television début with At Home, a series in which they interviewed guests in their homes. Another radio show, Meet Tex and Jinx, was a big success, and they also began a daily column in the Herald Tribune called "New York Close Up". They had two sons, John and Kevin, and on one notable broadcast which was a hook-up between Tex in New York and Jinx in Bermuda, Tex asked his wife, "How are the children?" "Oh," replied Jinx, "I thought they were with you."

In 1951 she wrote an autobiography, Jinx. She partially retired in 1958, but remained active as a member of the Republican Party's finance committee, and as vice-president for Marian Bialac Cosmetics (one of Jock Whitney's firms). She also staged fashion shows to benefit such organisations as the Child Study Association and, in 1975, proved that she was still an effective tennis player when she was part of the celebrity team playing a pre-opening match at Forest Hills. Recently, she was still serving on the board of a Long Island hospital which she and her husband helped found, and she was working on a second volume of autobiography.

The McCrarys separated in the 1980s, but remained friends (he died four weeks before her).

Tom Vallance

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