Faith Domergue

Faith Marie Domergue /doʊmɜːrɡ/[3] (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.

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.

Faith Domergue
Faith Domergue 1946
Domergue in 1946
BornJune 16, 1924[1] or June 16, 1925[2]
New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S.
DiedApril 4, 1999 (age 73–74)
Years active1941–1974
Teddy Stauffer (m. 1946–1947)

Hugo Fregonese (m. 1947–1958)

Paolo Cossa
(m. 1966; died 1992)

Early life

Domergue was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, on June 16, 1924 or 1925 (sources differ)[4] of part-Creole descent.[5] She was adopted by Adabelle Wemet when six weeks old.[5] When Faith was 18 months old, Adabelle married Leo Domergue.[6]

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.,[7] and made her first on-screen appearance with an uncredited walk-on role in Blues in the Night (1941).[8] 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".[9]


1943–1950: Early work; Howard Hughes

Faith Domergue and Robert Mitchum 1950
Domergue and Robert Mitchum in Where Danger Lives (1950).

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.[6] While recuperating from the accident, she attended a party aboard Howard Hughes' yacht.[10] Enamored with her, Hughes bought out her contract with Warner Brothers, [9] signed her to a three-picture deal with RKO,[11] 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.[9] The production extended over four years and cost $3.5 million.[12]

By the time of Vendetta's premiere in 1950, Domergue had left Los Angeles for Palm Springs, and was pregnant with her second child.[13] 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".[13] 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".[14] 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".[14]

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".[15]

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.[16] 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.[17]

In 1955, Domergue appeared in another Western, Santa Fe Passage, playing an ammunition retailer opposite John Payne and George Keymas.[18] 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.[19] 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.[20] The following year, Domergue starred in This Island Earth (1955), Universal's first color science fiction film.[21] The film received moderate critical praise for its performances and writing, as well as its inventive special effects.[21] Domergue's tenure in these pictures earned her a reputation as an early scream queen.[22]

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)[23] and Man in the Shadow (1957),[24] 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,[25] 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.[26] 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.[27]

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).[28][29]

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).[28][30][31] The couple divorced in 1958. In 1966, she married Paolo Cossa, with whom she remained until his death in 1992.[5] Despite the divorces, Domergue otherwise remained a practicing Roman Catholic.[27]


Domergue spent her later years in retirement in Palo Alto, California.[32] On April 4, 1999, she died from an unspecified cancer at age 74 in Santa Barbara [33] and was cremated.[28]

In popular culture

In the 2004 Howard Hughes biopic film The Aviator, Domergue was played by Kelli Garner.[34]



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. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ Hagen 2002, p. 49.
  4. ^ Sources of Domergue's birth year vary; those that list 1924 include:
    • "Obituaries: Faith Domergue; Film Star Contracted by Howard Hughes". The Los Angeles Times. April 17, 1999.
    • Raw, Laurence (2012). Character Actors in Horror and Science Fiction Films, 1930-1960. McFarland. p. 70. ISBN 978-0-786-44474-8.
    • "Hollywood Femmes Fatales and Ladies of Film Noir". 3. Lulu Com. 2011. ISBN 978-1-257-77212-4.
    Sources that list 1925 include:
  5. ^ a b c Vallance, Tom (May 11, 1999). "Obituary: Faith Domergue". The Independent. Retrieved September 26, 2016.
  6. ^ a b Parla & Mitchell 2000, p. 59.
  7. ^ Weaver 2011, p. 29.
  8. ^ Parla & Mitchell 2000, p. 60.
  9. ^ a b c Weaver 2011, p. 31.
  10. ^ Charyn 1996, p. 217–18.
  11. ^ Parla & Mitchell 2000, pp. 59–60.
  12. ^ "Faith Domergue: She Follows Harlow and Russell". Life. July 17, 1950.
  13. ^ a b Weaver 2011, p. 32.
  14. ^ a b "Movie Review -- At the Globe". The New York Times. December 26, 1950. Retrieved September 27, 2016.
  15. ^ 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.
  16. ^ Weaver 2011, p. 33.
  17. ^ Fitzgerald, Mike. "Faith Domergue". Western Clippings (Interview). Interviewed by Faith Domergue. Albuquerque, New Mexico. Retrieved September 23, 2016.
  18. ^ "Santa Fe Passage (1955)". Turner Classic Movies. American Film Institute. Retrieved September 9, 2016.
  19. ^ "Cult of the Cobra (1955)". Turner Classic Movies. American Film Institute. Retrieved September 26, 2016.
  20. ^ 'The Top Box-Office Hits of 1955' (January 25, 1956). Variety Weekly.
  21. ^ a b H.H.T. (June 11, 1955). "'This Island Earth' Explored From Space". The New York Times. Retrieved September 22, 2016.
  22. ^ Bergan, Ronald (May 17, 1999). "Faith Domergue". The Guardian. Retrieved September 24, 2016.
  23. ^ "Soho Incident (1956)". British Film Institute. Retrieved September 26, 2016.
  24. ^ "Man in the Shadow (1957)". British Film Institute. Retrieved September 26, 2016.
  25. ^ Westfahl, Gary (1999–2016). "Domergue, Faith". Gary Westfahl's Bio-Encyclopedia of Science Fiction Film. Retrieved September 26, 2016.
  26. ^ Weaver 2011, p. 40.
  27. ^ a b Weaver 2011, p. 41.
  28. ^ a b c "The Private Life and Times of Faith Domergue". Glamour Girls of the Silver Screen. Retrieved September 22, 2016.
  29. ^ Erickson, Hal. "Faith Domergue Biography". Fandango. Rovi. Retrieved September 27, 2016.
  30. ^
  31. ^ Maltin, Leonard. "Overview for Faith Domergue". Turner Classic Movies. Penguin Group. Retrieved September 25, 2016.
  32. ^ Carter 2003.
  33. ^ Galloway, Doug (April 16, 1999). "Faith Domergue". Variety. Retrieved March 4, 2009.
  34. ^ "Faith Domergue 1924-1999". November 8, 2015. Retrieved September 24, 2016.


External links

California (1963 film)

California is a 1963 film set in 1841 California involving a revolt against Mexican rule.

Cult of the Cobra

Cult of the Cobra is a 1955 American black-and-white horror film from Universal-International Pictures, produced by Howard Pine, directed by Francis D. Lyon, that stars Faith Domergue, Richard Long, Kathleen Hughes, Marshall Thompson, Jack Kelly, William Reynolds, and David Janssen. The film was released as a double feature with Revenge of the Creature.

Six American officers witness the secret ritual of Lamians (worshipers of women who can change into serpents). When the soldiers are discovered by the snake cult, the High Lamian Priestess vows that "the Cobra Goddess will avenge herself". Once back in the United States, a mysterious woman enters into the life of each service man, with disastrous results: "accidents" begin to happen, and before each death the shadow of a cobra is seen. Critics noted similarities of the film with Val Lewton's film Cat People having been released thirteen years prior.


Domergue is a French surname. Notable people with the surname include:

Faith Domergue (1924–1999), American film actress

François-Urbain Domergue (1745–1810), French grammarian and journalist

Jacques Domergue (born 1953), French politician

Jean-François Domergue (born 1957), French footballer

Jean-Gabriel Domergue (1889–1962), French artist

Marcel Domergue (1901–?), French footballer

Robert Domergue (1921–2014), French footballer

Escort West

Escort West is a 1959 American Western film directed by Francis D. Lyon, and starring Victor Mature, Faith Domergue, and Elaine Stewart. The movie is set after the U.S. Civil War, when a former Confederate officer, played by Victor Mature, and his daughter help some survivors of an Indian massacre. The film was released by United Artists on January 23, 1959.

It was the second of two co-productions between Batjac and Romina Productions. Their first was China Doll (1957).The movie was filmed largely on the Iverson Movie Ranch in Chatsworth, Calif., with additional footage shot on the nearby Bell Moving Picture Ranch. The site of the Bell Ranch location shoot remained a mystery for decades until it was discovered on an expedition by film location researchers in early 2015. The researchers found the location by using information from "Escort West" and the first Elvis Presley movie, Love Me Tender, which filmed its climactic sequence at the same site, known as the "Rocky Hill."

It Came from Beneath the Sea

It Came from Beneath the Sea is a 1955 American black-and-white science fiction giant monster film from Columbia Pictures, produced by Sam Katzman and Charles Schneer, directed by Robert Gordon, that stars Kenneth Tobey, Faith Domergue, and Donald Curtis.

The script by George Worthing Yates was designed to showcase the stop motion animation special effects of Ray Harryhausen.

It Came from Beneath the Sea was released as the top half of a double feature with Creature with the Atom Brain.

Kelli Garner

Kelli Brianne Garner (born April 11, 1984) is an American actress. Garner made her feature film debut in Larry Clark's thriller Bully (2001), followed by a supporting role as Faith Domergue in Martin Scorsese's The Aviator (2004). Over the following several years, she had lead roles in the films Thumbsucker (2005), Lars and the Real Girl (2007), and in the Disney animated film G-Force (2009).

More recent roles include the film Horns (2014) opposite Daniel Radcliffe, and the television film The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe, in which Garner portrays Monroe.

Man in the Shadow (1957 British film)

Man in the Shadow, released in the United States as Violent Stranger, is a 1957 British crime film directed by Montgomery Tully and starring Zachary Scott and Faith Domergue.The film had to be retitled for the US market because of the release of the American film of the same name in the same year.

Santa Fe Passage

Santa Fe Passage is a 1955 Trucolor Western film directed by William Witney and starring John Payne, Faith Domergue and Rod Cameron.

Soho Incident

Soho Incident, released in the United States as Spin a Dark Web, is a 1956 British film noir directed by Vernon Sewell and starring Faith Domergue and Lee Patterson.The screenplay is based on Wide Boys Never Work, a novel by Robert Westerby.

The Duel at Silver Creek

The Duel at Silver Creek is a 1952 American Technicolor Western film directed by Don Siegel; his first film in the Western genre. It starred Audie Murphy, Faith Domergue, Stephen McNally and Susan Cabot. It was the first time Murphy had appeared in a film where he played a character who was good throughout the movie. The working titles of the film were Claim Jumpers and Hair Trigger Kid.

The Great Sioux Uprising

The Great Sioux Uprising is a 1953 American Technicolor Western film directed by Lloyd Bacon starring Jeff Chandler, Faith Domergue and Lyle Bettger.

The House of Seven Corpses

The House of Seven Corpses is a 1974 American horror film directed by Paul Harrison and starring John Ireland, Faith Domergue and John Carradine.

This Is My Love

This Is My Love is a 1954 American drama film directed by Stuart Heisler, written by Hugh Brooke and Hagar Wilde, and starring Linda Darnell, Rick Jason, Dan Duryea, Faith Domergue, Connie Russell and Hal Baylor. It was released on November 11, 1954, by RKO Pictures.

This Island Earth

This Island Earth is a 1955 American science fiction film from Universal International, produced by William Alland, directed by Joseph M. Newman and Jack Arnold, that stars Jeff Morrow, Faith Domergue and Rex Reason. It is based on the eponymous 1952 novel by Raymond F. Jones, which was originally published in the magazine Thrilling Wonder Stories as three related novelettes: "The Alien Machine" in the June 1949 issue, "The Shroud of Secrecy" in December 1949, and "The Greater Conflict" in February 1950. The film was released in 1955 as a double feature with Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy.

Upon initial release, the film was praised by critics, who cited the special effects, well-written script, and eye-popping Technicolor prints as being its major assets. In 1996, it was edited down and lampooned in Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie, a spin-off of the popular syndicated movie riffing television series Mystery Science Theater 3000.

Timeslip (1955 film)

Timeslip (known as The Atomic Man in the United States) is a 1955 British black-and-white science fiction film directed by Ken Hughes and starring Gene Nelson and Faith Domergue. Produced by Alec C. Snowden, it is based on the science fiction novel The Isotope Man by Charles Eric Maine, who also wrote the screenplay. In the UK, the film was distributed by Anglo-Amalgamated. In 1956 the film was shortened from 93 minutes to 76 minutes and distributed in the U.S. by Allied Artists Pictures as a double feature with Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

Track of Thunder

Track of Thunder is a 1967 stock car racing film directed by Joseph Kane and starring Tommy Kirk.

Vendetta (1950 film)

Vendetta is a 1950 American crime film based on the 1840 novella Colomba by Prosper Mérimée, about a young Corsican girl who pushes her brother to kill to avenge their father's murder.

The film, produced by Howard Hughes as a vehicle for his latest discovery, Faith Domergue, began principal photography for United Artists in 1946, but was not released until four years later through RKO Pictures, which Hughes had recently purchased. Hughes fired director Max Ophüls as well as his producing partner, Preston Sturges, who replaced Ophüls. Stuart Heisler completed the film, but Hughes decided he wanted more changes and brought in actor/director Mel Ferrer, who is the only credited director on the film. Hughes himself did some direction of pick-up scenes. The screenplay was credited to W. R. Burnett, but the script was worked on by a number of writers, including Sturges, who originated the project at Hughes's behest.

Vendetta is estimated to have cost around $4 million, an extraordinary amount for the time. The film was neither a critical nor a box office success.

Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet

Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet is a 1965 American science fiction film, one of two versions adapted for Roger Corman from the Soviet science fiction movie Planeta Bur (Planet of Storms), scripted by Aleksandr Kazantsev from his novel and directed by Pavel Klushantsev. Curtis Harrington oversaw the editing and dubbing of principal portions of the source film, and directed new principal scenes featuring Basil Rathbone and Faith Domergue. The resulting new film was then syndicated to television by American-International Television Inc.

Where Danger Lives

Where Danger Lives is a 1950 film noir thriller directed by John Farrow and starring Robert Mitchum, Faith Domergue and Claude Rains. At the time, Domergue was the latest of Howard Hughes' proteges.

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