Faith Domergue

Faith Marie Domergue (/dˈmɛərɡ/[7]; June 16, 1924 or 1925 – April 4, 1999) was an American film and television actress. Discovered at age sixteen by media and aircraft mogul Howard Hughes, she was signed to a contract with Hughes' RKO Radio Pictures and cast as the lead in the studio's thriller Vendetta, which had a troubled four-year production before finally being released in 1950.

Faith Domergue
Domergue in 1946
Born(1924-06-16)June 16, 1924 or (1925-06-16)June 16, 1925[lower-alpha 1]
New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S.
Died(1999-04-04)April 4, 1999 (age 73–74)
Years active1941–1974
Teddy Stauffer (m. 19461947)

Hugo Fregonese (m. 19471958)

Paolo Cossa
(m. 1966; died 1992)

Domergue went on to appear in a multitude of science fiction and horror pictures, such as Cult of the Cobra, This Island Earth, It Came from Beneath the Sea, and The Atomic Man, all released in 1955, earning her a reputation as an early "scream queen". Domergue's later career consisted of B movies, television guest roles, and European productions.

Early life

Domergue was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, on June 16, 1924 or 1925 (sources differ)[8] of part-Creole descent.[9] She was adopted by Adabelle Wemet when six weeks old.[9] When Faith was 18 months old, Adabelle married Leo Domergue.[10]

The family moved to California in 1928 where Domergue attended Beverly Hills Catholic School and St. Monica's Convent School. While a sophomore at University High School, she signed a contract with Warner Bros.,[11] and made her first on-screen appearance with an uncredited walk-on role in Blues in the Night (1941).[12] The same year, she appeared on the cover of Photoplay as Faith Dorn; the name change, she later claimed, was "because Jack Warner was too stupid to pronounce Domergue".[13]


1943–1950: Early work; Howard Hughes

After graduating in 1942, Domergue continued to pursue a career in acting, but after sustaining injuries in a near-fatal car accident, her plans were put on hold.[10] While recuperating from the accident, she attended a party aboard Howard Hughes' yacht.[14] Enamored with her, Hughes bought out her contract with Warner Brothers, [13] signed her to a three-picture deal with RKO,[15] and cast her in the thriller Vendetta (1950). The film had a long and troubled production history, with reshoots and several changes of director, further exacerbated by Hughes's health problems following a near-fatal plane crash he endured in July 1946.[13] The production extended over four years and cost $3.5 million.[16]

By the time of Vendetta's premiere in 1950, Domergue had left Los Angeles for Palm Springs, and was pregnant with her second child.[17] After the film's release, Domergue separated from Hughes, disappointed with the way the film and her career had been handled: "I was told he spent five million dollars publicizing me", she said, "but [the] film was['nt properly] released. It was all wasted".[17] The critical reception was also dismissive. The New York Times panned the film as "a garrulous, slow and obvious period piece, weighed down by a profusion of exotic accents, undistinguished dialogue, and unconvincing play acting... set against a background of the wild, Corsican countryside, which does give the picture an atmosphere of suspenseful authenticity".[18] The review damned Domergue's performance with faint praise: "Faith Domergue, the heralded newcomer, is less than a fiery heroine. But despite the flamboyant lines that are her lot, the attractive Miss Domergue does occasionally contribute genuine emotional acting to the proceedings".[18]

Following Vendetta, Domergue freelanced in the film noir Where Danger Lives (1950), playing a femme fatale opposite Robert Mitchum and Claude Rains. Bosley Crowther, in The New York Times, criticized Domergue's performance for "manifest[ing] nothing more than a comparatively sultry appearance and an ability to recite simple lines".[19]

1951–1959: Universal and science fiction films

After having lived briefly in England with her husband, Domergue returned to the United States in 1953, when she signed a contract with Universal Pictures.[20] Her final credit for RKO was the 1954 drama This Is My Love, which was shot after the release in 1952 of her first film with Universal, The Duel at Silver Creek, in which she appeared opposite Audie Murphy.[21]

In 1955, Domergue appeared in another Western, Santa Fe Passage, playing an ammunition retailer opposite John Payne and George Keymas.[22] Domergue then appeared in a series of science fiction, monster, and horror films. The first of these was Cult of the Cobra (Universal Pictures 1955), in which six American Air Force officers discover a Lamian cult of snake worshippers.[23] This was followed with a role in Columbia Pictures's It Came from Beneath the Sea, a science fiction-monster film which was a major commercial success, grossing $1.7 million at the box office.[24] The following year, Domergue starred in This Island Earth (1955), Universal's first color science fiction film.[25] The film received moderate critical praise for its performances and writing, as well as its inventive special effects.[25] Domergue's tenure in these pictures earned her a reputation as an early scream queen.[26]

From late in 1955, Domergue appeared in a string of European productions: the British science fiction film The Atomic Man (1955), directed by Ken Hughes; British noir films Soho Incident (1956)[27] and Man in the Shadow (1957),[28] released in the United States as Violent Stranger ; and the Italian production, The Sky Burns (1958).

1960–1974: Late career and retirement

In the late 1950s and 1960s she made many appearances on popular television series,[29] including Sugarfoot, Have Gun – Will Travel, Bonanza, The Rifleman, and two episodes of Perry Mason. In the first Perry Mason episode, "The Case of the Guilty Clients" (1961), she played murderer Conception O'Higgins, and in "The Case of the Greek Goddess" (1963) she played murder victim Cleo Grammas.

By the late 1960s, Domergue was appearing mainly in low-budget "B" horror movies and European productions. Domergue's last foray in science fiction was Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet (1965), an American version of a Russian film, mainly backed by Russian producers and populated with Russian actors.[30] She began traveling to Italy in 1952, living in Rome for extended periods. She relocated to Europe permanently in 1968, moving from Rome to Geneva, Switzerland, and Marbella, Spain, until the death of her Italian husband, Paolo, in 1991. In the late 1960s, she appeared in several Italian giallo films, including Lucio Fulci's One on Top of the Other (1969), and Alberto De Martino's The Man with Icy Eyes (1971). Her final film credit was for The House of Seven Corpses (1974), an independent horror film shot in Salt Lake City.[31]

Personal life

In 1942, Domergue began an intermittent relationship with Howard Hughes. After she discovered that Hughes was also seeing Ava Gardner, Rita Hayworth, and Lana Turner, the couple broke up in 1943. She later wrote a book about the experience, titled My Life with Howard Hughes (1972).[32][33]

In 1946, Domergue married bandleader Teddy Stauffer. The marriage lasted six months, ending in 1947. That same year, she married director Hugo Fregonese with whom she had two children, Diana Maria (b. 1949) and John Anthony (b. 1951, d. 2018).[32][34][35] The couple divorced in 1958. In 1966, she married Paolo Cossa, with whom she remained until his death in 1992.[9] Despite the divorces, Domergue otherwise remained a practicing Roman Catholic.[31]


Domergue spent her later years in retirement in Palo Alto, California.[36] On April 4, 1999, she died from an unspecified cancer at age 74 in Santa Barbara [37] and was cremated.[32]

In the 2004 Howard Hughes biopic film The Aviator, Domergue was played by Kelli Garner.[38]



Year Title Role Notes
1941 Blues in the Night Jitterbug Uncredited
1946 Young Widow Gerry Taylor Alternative title: The Naughty Widow
1949 Hardly a Criminal
  • Uncredited
  • Alternative title: Apenas un delincuente
1950 Where Danger Lives Margo Lannington
1950 Vendetta Colomba della Rabia
1952 The Duel at Silver Creek Opal Lacy Alternative title: Claim Jumpers
1953 The Great Sioux Uprising Joan Britton
1954 This Is My Love Evelyn Myer
1955 Santa Fe Passage Aurelie St. Clair
1955 Cult of the Cobra Lisa Moya
1955 This Island Earth Dr. Ruth Adams
1955 It Came from Beneath the Sea Professor Lesley Joyce Alternative title: Monster from Beneath the Sea
1955 Timeslip Jill Rabowski Alternative title: The Atomic Man
1956 Soho Incident Bella Francesi Alternative title: Spin a Dark Web
1957 Man in the Shadow Barbara Peters Alternative title: Violent Stranger
1958 The Sky Burns Anna Alternative title: Il Cielo brucia
1958 Escort West Martha Drury
1963 California Carlotta Torres
1965 Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet Dr. Marsha Evans Additional material only, dubbed version of the Soviet film Planeta Bur (1962)
1967 Track of Thunder Mrs. Goodwin
1969 Besieged Lorenzo's mother Alternative title: L'Amore breve
1969 One on Top of the Other Marta Alternative titles: Una sull'altra, Perversion Story
1970 The Gamblers Signora Del Isolla
1971 Blood Legacy Veronica Dean Alternative title: Legacy of Blood
1971 The Man with Icy Eyes Mrs. Valdes Alternative title: L'Uomo dagli occhi di ghiaccio
1974 So Evil, My Sister Millie Alternative titles: Psycho Sisters
The Siblings
1974 The House of Seven Corpses Gayle Dorian


Year(s) Title Role Notes
1953 The Revlon Mirror Theater Laurie Rogers 1 episode
1953–1954 Lux Video Theatre 2 episodes
1954 Fireside Theatre
  • Mariana
  • Jenny
2 episodes
1954 Ford Theatre 1 episode
1954–1958 Schlitz Playhouse of Stars
  • Marcella
  • Mrs. Vialez
2 episodes
1955 Celebrity Playhouse 1 episode
1956 The Count of Monte Cristo Renee Morrell 1 episode
1957 Overseas Press Club - Exclusive! Helen Zotos 1 episode
1959 Sugarfoot Isabel Starkey 1 episode
1959 State Trooper
  • Elaine Kendall
  • Janice Kendall
2 episodes
1959 Bourbon Street Beat Susan Wood 1 episode
1959 Cheyenne Maria 1 episode
1959–1961 Hawaiian Eye
  • Onori
  • Rosa Martell
2 episodes
1960 Colt .45 Suzanne Tremaine 1 episode
1960 Bronco Catalina 1 episode
1960 Michael Shayne Kara 1 episode
1961 77 Sunset Strip Gretchen Jervis 1 episode
1961 The Tall Man Kate Elder 1 episode
1961 Lock-Up Marianne 1 episode
1961–1963 Perry Mason
  • Conception O'Higgins
  • Cleo Grammas
2 episodes
1961–1964 Bonanza
  • Lee Bolden
  • Carla Ibara
2 episodes
1962–1963 Have Gun – Will Travel
  • Ria
  • Elena Ybarra
2 episodes
1966 Combat! Madame Fouchet 1 episode
1968 Garrison's Gorillas Carla 1 episode


  1. Sources of Domergue's birth year vary; some list 1924,[1][2][3] while others list 1925.[4][5][6]


  1. "Obituaries: Faith Domergue; Film Star Contracted by Howard Hughes". Los Angeles Times. April 17, 1999.
  2. Raw, Laurence (2012). Character Actors in Horror and Science Fiction Films, 1930-1960. McFarland. p. 70. ISBN 978-0-786-44474-8.
  3. "Hollywood Femmes Fatales and Ladies of Film Noir". 3. Lulu Com. 2011. ISBN 978-1-257-77212-4. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  4. "Faith Domergue". British Film Institute.
  5. Vallance, Tom (May 11, 1999). "Obituary: Faith Domergue". The Independent.
  6. Willis, John A.; Blum, Daniel C. (1990). Screen World (Vol. 41). Screen World. 41. p. 225.
  7. "Say How: D". National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. Retrieved February 27, 2019.
  8. Sources of Domergue's birth year vary; those that list 1924 include: Sources that list 1925 include:
  9. Vallance, Tom (May 11, 1999). "Obituary: Faith Domergue". The Independent. Retrieved September 26, 2016.
  10. Parla & Mitchell 2000, p. 59.
  11. Weaver 2011, p. 29.
  12. Parla & Mitchell 2000, p. 60.
  13. Weaver 2011, p. 31.
  14. Charyn 1996, p. 217–18.
  15. Parla & Mitchell 2000, pp. 59–60.
  16. "Faith Domergue: She Follows Harlow and Russell". Life. July 17, 1950.
  17. Weaver 2011, p. 32.
  18. "Movie Review -- At the Globe". The New York Times. December 26, 1950. Retrieved September 27, 2016.
  19. Crowther, Bosley (January 1, 1951). "THE SCREEN IN REVIEW; 'The Milkman,' at the Mayfair Shows Jimmy Durante and Donald O'Connor in Leads". The New York Times. Retrieved September 25, 2016.
  20. Weaver 2011, p. 33.
  21. Fitzgerald, Mike. "Faith Domergue". Western Clippings (Interview). Interviewed by Faith Domergue. Albuquerque, New Mexico. Retrieved September 23, 2016.
  22. "Santa Fe Passage (1955)". Turner Classic Movies. American Film Institute. Retrieved September 9, 2016.
  23. "Cult of the Cobra (1955)". Turner Classic Movies. American Film Institute. Retrieved September 26, 2016.
  24. 'The Top Box-Office Hits of 1955' (January 25, 1956). Variety Weekly.
  25. H.H.T. (June 11, 1955). "'This Island Earth' Explored From Space". The New York Times. Retrieved September 22, 2016.
  26. Bergan, Ronald (May 17, 1999). "Faith Domergue". The Guardian. Retrieved September 24, 2016.
  27. "Soho Incident (1956)". British Film Institute. Retrieved September 26, 2016.
  28. "Man in the Shadow (1957)". British Film Institute. Retrieved September 26, 2016.
  29. Westfahl, Gary (1999–2016). "Domergue, Faith". Gary Westfahl's Bio-Encyclopedia of Science Fiction Film. Retrieved September 26, 2016.
  30. Weaver 2011, p. 40.
  31. Weaver 2011, p. 41.
  32. "The Private Life and Times of Faith Domergue". Glamour Girls of the Silver Screen. Retrieved September 22, 2016.
  33. Erickson, Hal. "Faith Domergue Biography". Fandango. Rovi. Retrieved September 27, 2016.
  35. Maltin, Leonard. "Overview for Faith Domergue". Turner Classic Movies. Penguin Group. Retrieved September 25, 2016.
  36. Carter 2003.
  37. Galloway, Doug (April 16, 1999). "Faith Domergue". Variety. Retrieved March 4, 2009.
  38. "Faith Domergue 1924-1999". November 8, 2015. Retrieved September 24, 2016.


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