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Elyse Knox Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (3)  | Mini Bio (1)  | Spouse (2)  | Trivia (8)  | Personal Quotes (8)

Overview (3)

Born in Hartford, Connecticut, USA
Died in Los Angeles, California, USA
Birth NameElsie Lillian Kornbrath

Mini Bio (1)

Elyse Knox, the actress best known for starring in The Mummy's Tomb (1942) and for being Heisman Award-winner Tom Harmon s wife and actor Mark Harmon's mother, was born Elsie Lillian Kornbrath on December 14, 1917 in Hartford, Connecticut, to Austrian parents Hermine Sophie (Muck) and Frederick Kornbrath, from Vienna. Knox's first love wasn't acting but art: she began painting in oils during high school, and painting remained a passion throughout her life. She had an exhibition of her work in 1981.

After graduating from New York City's Traphagen School of Fashion, she got a job in a New York design studio as an artist's assistant intent on becoming a fashion designer. When a model didn't show up as scheduled, she filled in and soon became a top fashion model herself, appearing in all the major magazines. She modeled some of her own creations in "Vogue Magazine" in 1937. That and an appearance as a fashion model in a newsreel landed her a Hollywood contract from 20th Century-Fox.

She made her debut in an uncredited bit part in Wake Up and Live (1937), starring gossip columnist Walter Winchell, in 1937. Knox would not appear again on-screen for another three years, until Free, Blonde and 21 (1940) in 1940. In all, she made 39 movies in the 1940s.

Knox bounced around between studios, including Paramount and Universal. While at Paramount, she met Heisman Trophy winner Tom Harmon, to whom she became engaged. The engagement was broken off when he went off to WWII and she married another man, but that marriage proved short-lived. When Harmon returned from the war, she married him in 1944.

She was a contract player at Universal in the 1940s, where she made the "Mummy" movie with Lon Chaney Jr. who - having had to carry her in a kidnapping scene - thanked her for being petite. The real-life love of a genuine sports hero, she also played Anne Howe, girl friend of fictional boxer "Joe Palooka," in a series of B-movies at Monogram.

After having two children with Harmon, she retired in 1949. "I'm just a mother at heart," she said, "so I decided it was time to retire from the screen."

Her son Mark, born in 1951, played for UCLA as a quarterback and became a top TV star. One of her daughters, Kristin Harmon, was an actress who married Ricky Nelson. The singer-songwriters Gunnar Nelson and Matthew Nelson are her grandchildren.

Elyse Knox died on February 16, 2012 in Los Angeles. She was 94 years old.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Jon C. Hopwood

Spouse (2)

Tom Harmon (26 August 1944 - 15 March 1990) ( his death) ( 3 children)
Paul Hesse (21 February 1942 - 28 March 1944) ( divorced)

Trivia (8)

Mother of actor Mark Harmon, actresses Kristin Harmon and Kelly Harmon
A "B" actress for most of her career, she retired in the late 1940s to raise a family, but came back sporadically to do commercial work.
Mother-in-law of actress Pam Dawber.
Grandmother of Sam Nelson, musicians Gunnar Nelson and Matthew Nelson, and actress Tracy Nelson.
When she married football star and World War II serviceman Tom Harmon, her wedding dress was made out of the parachute that saved his life in the Pacific Theater.
Besides being married to a football star, Tom Harmon, her brother, Ron Knox, played quarterback for the Chicago Bears, and her son, Mark Harmon, was a star quarterback at UCLA.
Ex-mother-in-law of Ricky Nelson, Mark Tinker and John DeLorean.
Was a lifelong staunch supporter of the Republican party.

Personal Quotes (8)

[on how her career began] I went to art school, then did modeling. I was a bride in a Vivian Donner fashion newsreel and it caught the attention of quite a few people. This led to a stock contract at Fox. I dated John Payne for a while, before he married Gloria DeHaven.
I never knew Bud Abbott that well. Lou Costello was more outgoing. My husband, Tom Harmon, and I had been close to Lou's family. He lived nearby. Lou was really a nice person. There's nobody around today who could replace him.
[on the Joe Palooka movies] I enjoyed making them. Joe Kirkwood Jr. was Joe, Leon Errol played Knobby. They were a lot of fun but at the time I had two children. I'm just a mother at heart, so I decided it was time to retire from the screen.
I would hate to be around today. In my time, you learned your craft with small roles. They always handed you a script and told you, "This is your role". Now, you have to read for a part, over and over. 2,000 people have to approve before you get anything. I liked my era, where you were groomed.
[on The Mummy's Tomb (1942)] That was done on the backlot. Turhan Bey was in it. What a nice, lovely man. 'The Mummy's Tomb' was my only horror film, so I remember it vividly.

We had to work all night on the kidnapping and graveyard scenes. Lon Chaney Jr. had a strap around his neck to support me. One arm was supposed to be paralyzed and he could only hold me with the other arm. I had this negligee with marabou - and one of the feathers somehow got under Lon's rubber mummy mask. He was one unhappy actor because he couldn't get it out. After it was over, he thanked me for being petite. It seems some of my predecessors were a little on the heavy side!

The day of the kidnapping scene - where the Mummy takes me from my bed - the director [Harold Young] told me, "When you see him you really have to scream!". He thought since I'd never done anything like that before, I wouldn't be able to do it. One look at Lon Chaney Jr. coming at me and it wasn't hard to let out that scream at all!
[on Don Winslow of the Coast Guard (1943)] It was mostly shot on the backlot. I was a nurse always dodging bullets and explosions. Don Terry and I previously did a feature, Top Sergeant (1942). I don't recall much about him, but Walter Sande was always a very pleasant guy to be around.
[Roy Rogers] is a terrific person! I remember he'd just come back from a publicity tour and his station wagon was filled with initials his fans carved into the car. I always liked his singing a lot. I only regret I didn't do more than one picture with him.
[on A Wave, a WAC and a Marine (1944)] Not a good film, but some of the individual scenes turned out well. Lou Costello looked at my scene with Ann Gillis as we were performing on a stage in uniform. I'm blind and she slaps me in the face. Lou came out of the projection room with tears in his eyes. Dear Lou kept telling me, "You're gonna be the biggest star". Lou was so enthusiastic for me - but the director [Phil Karlson] was not good. That director made Henny Youngman talk so fast even Henny couldn't understand himself!

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