Jessie Reed ~ The Cursed Ziegfeld Girl

Jessie Reed

Jessie Reed was a popular Ziegfeld Follies showgirl who divorced four husbands before
dying penniless.

She was born Jessie May Richardson in 1897 in Houston, Texas. Her parents both died when she was young and she dropped out of the eighth grade to go to work. At the age of fifteen she married vaudeville actor Ollie Debrow. Their daughter, Annie Carroll, was born on November 29, 1913. Jessie joined Ollie's vaudeville act and they toured the country together. In 1916 she started having an affair with a chauffer named Leslie Nash. When her husband found out he shot and killed Leslie. Ollie was arrested for murder. At the headline making trial he plead self-defense and was acquitted. Soon after she divorced him and moved to New York City. She left her young daughter with relatives in Texas. Jessie was discovered by Jack Shubert and made her stage debut in The Passing Show Of 1917. Then she starred in the musical Sinbad with Al Jolson. Florenz Ziegfeld asked her to join the Ziegfeld Follies in 1919. She also appeared in the Nine O'Clock Review and the Midnight Frolic. By 1920 she she one of the highest paid showgirls in New York earning more than $200 a week. She had auburn hair, a perfect complexion, and was described as a stunning beauty. Jessie met Dan Caswell, the son of a Cleveland millionaire, in November of 1920. They impulsively eloped but just three months later Dan left her. He claimed she had married him for money and lied about her past.

Jessie ReedJessie Reed

Jessie Reed

Then she was engaged to Russell Colt, the ex-husband of Ethel Barrymore. She had a bit part as a dancer in the 1923 film Enemies Of Women. On February 24,1924 she married William F. Young, a wealthy advertising executive. The couple had only known each other for three days. She quit the Ziegfeld Follies and announced she just wanted to a be a housewife. Unfortunately Jessie and William divorced in 1927. She married her fourth husband Leonard Reno, a rich Chicago publisher, the following year. The press was now cruelly referring to her as a gold digger. After six years of marriage she and her husband separated in 1934. Unable to find work she quickly found herself penniless. She also had a serious drinking problem. Jessie made headlines in 1935 when she was nearly evicted from her apartment. A club owner heard her story and offered her a job in a chorus line. Later she worked as a nightclub hostess in Chicago. In August of 1940 she was hospitalized with a throat infection. The following month she was back in the hospital suffering from pneumonia. Tragically on September 18, 1940 she died at the young age of forty-three. Jessie was buried in an unmarked grave at Mount Olivet Catholic Cemetery in Chicago, Illinois. Sadly at the time of her death she had not seen her daughter, Annie Carroll, for more than twenty years.

Jessie ReedJessie Reed

* Some sites claim that Jessie was married to violinist Lew Reed but he was married to a different Jessie Reed.