McKEE Grace (spouse GODDARD)
Born Clara Grace Emma Atchinson
Date of birth : January 1, 1894, Montana.
Date of death : September 28, 1953, Los Angeles, California.
Places of living :
1921 : 1211 Hyperion Avenue (with Gladys Baker)
1935 : 6707 Odessa Avenue, Van Nuys (with Doc Goddard)
1937 : Barbara Court, Hollywood (with Doc Goddard)
1941 : 14 743 Archwood Street, Van Nuys (with Doc Goddard)
1941 : (September) 6707 Odessa Avenue, Van Nuys
1942 :322, Wilson Court, Huntigton, Virginia.
1953 : 6707 Odessa Avenue, Van Nuys.
Practise : she checked the work in the negative cutting-room at the Consolidated Film Industries.
Her mother : Emma Atchinson.
Her father : Wallace Atchinson, born in Michigan.
His father's sister : aunt Ana Lower.
On February 2, 1915, she married Reginald A.Evans (born in Kansas) a 21 years old car mechanic (same age than hers).
At that time, they lived in Sawtelle, Los Angeles County.
She dreamt to become a movie star but despite an attracting smile and an irrepressive ambition, her dream would remain a dream.Oxygened doll, Grace had good time playing the role of the "good time girl", according to a fashion expression of this era and which let imagine what this girl would do...
She would have claimed that Evans had gone to the war and was dead, but this fact has never been confirmed.
She didn't live much long with McKee, even if several years passed before the divorce would be granted.
1923 : she worked at the Consolidated Film Industries.
One of her colleagues at the Consolidated Film Industries, Olin G.Stanley, said about her :
"This woman was like a bird...She was independent, hardworking and loose moral. She was also ambitious. But most of all, she was very busy doing nothing. When she wanted someone or something, she pounced on it. Going to party and drinking were the most important things of her life and working just allowed her to do it".
This is where she met Gladys Baker and they became friends:. They often went out together, always looking for a date.
End of Summer 1923 : Gladys and Grace shared an apartment, 1211 Hyperion Avenue, East Hollywood.
Grace, Gladys and their admirers dealt with smuggling alcohol boxes widely available in the capital of cinema, and went each week-ends for walks in the mountains or to the beach for parties.
When they raved one day too much, or if they didn't attend their job, or when they escaped from the laboratory for an afternoon of fun, their colleagues did their jobs in return for a dollar or a drink.Gladys and Grace were real "flappers", those young women from the roaring twenties who, strengthened by the voting right they just had obtained, had decided to appropriate to themselves the same social and sexual liberties than men had. In their own way, they just imitated the stars, both stunning and controversial, whose dazzling image unfolded day after day, in their cutting-room.
1933-1934 : she often visited Gladys, at Arbol Street.
1935 : Grace made the required process and became Norma Jeane's guardian, Gladys having been hospitalized and declared unfit.
On March 25, 1935, she stated under oath being the ideal candidate to become Norma Jeane's guardian.
Spring 1935 : Grace met Doc Goddard; the exact circumstances of their meeting are unknown, but a violent passion came up between them.
He was 10 years younger than Grace.
His charm, his warmth and his dreams about a movie fame alternated with laziness phases which took him to the nearest bar for endless discussions with the regulars.
Such a man could only be seduced by Grace's energy that he found contagious, by his passionnate nature he found gratifying and by her supports and her adoration he found irresistible. Grace became infatuated with the strong young man, so handsome that she described him as a movie star. All the more so as he showed a passionate attention and that he wasn't stingy of compliments.
She lived at one of her aunt's house, Minnie Willette (Emma Atchinson's sister) who was their bridesmaid.
On September 13, 1935, she dropped Norma Jeane off at the Los Angeles orphanage (815 North El Centro);
On Saturdays, she took the little girl to have lunch and went with her the cinema.
After Doc's indecent assault, she took Norma
Jeane to Ana Lower's
home; during those 5 years, Norma Jeane came back to the Goddards when
Ana Lower's health prevented her from looking after the girl.
1940 : during one of her stays at the Goddards (Archwood Street), Norma Jeane became friends with Bebe
In September 1941, the Goddards moved in Odessa Avenue (the house was owned by Ana Lower).
She asked Jim Dougherty, son of her friend and former neighbor, Ethel Dougherty, to take Bebe and Norma Jeane to school, because, from then on, they lived too far for the girls to go by foot; Jim, working at night, was available during the day.
In April 1942, Doc was transfered in Huntington, Virginia.
In 1943 Grace worked in Chicago in a cinematic laboratory but Doc still lived in Virginia; Grace would have left because she had problems with alcohol. Norma Jeane stayed in touch with her and sent her the money she earned at the Radio Plane Munitions Factory, to help her; she would visit her in Chicago and, during this trip, would visit Doc and Bebe in Virginia.
June 15, 1944 : Norma Jeane wrote to her. It was 7 weeks that Jim had left to Asia; Norma Jeane seemed satisifed with her soldier's wife role, waiting for his return :
"Of course I know that if it hadn't been for you we might not have ever been married and I know I owe you a lot for that fact alone, besides countless others....I love Jimmie just more than anyone (..) and I know I shall never be happy with anyone else as long as I live and I know he feels the same towards me. So you see we are really very happy together that is of course when we can be together. We both miss each other terribly".
In June 1946, Grace and her family came back to California.
In August 1946, Grace accompanied Norma Jeane to the Fox to sign her contract with her; Grace's signature was essential because Norma Jeane wasn't aged 21.
Picture Summer 1946
Then, there were only few meetings.
Between 1949 and 1951, Marilyn visited her but was also very affected by ravages alcohol had caused to Grace.
On July 4, 1953, Grace wrote to Berniece Miracle, Marilyn's sister, with who she kept in touch. In her letter, Grace informed her she had a cancer and she had to have an hysterectomy.
On September 28, 1953,
Grace was found unconscious on the bed of her small bungalow in Van
Nuys, dead of a phenobarbital overdose (barbiturates), after years
of alcoholism which had weakened her.
Marilyn dealt with the formalities but didn't attend the funeral which took place on October 1, 1953 at the Westwood Memorial Park
Marilyn's absence to the funeral wasn't such linked to her shyness than
to the fact that, for years, the 2 women hadn't had much relations.
Grace, who actually had been Marilyn's career initiator, had been
excluded from the magical circle at the time of success, and indeed,
she was never seen in galas and Hollywood glamor events. Over the
years, their contact fraid and their correspondence only concerned
material needs or Gladys housing issues. Marilyn's disaffection was, at
least partly, due to the fact that Grace had plunged in drugs and
alcohol addiction, a view which had terrified Marilyn during her 2
visits in 1949 and in 1951, and made her avoiding any other meeting. In this respect, Grace could only made her remembering Gladys slow decline.
Marilyn and Berniece thought that Grace had died from her uterus cancer, but Berniece would ask for Grace death certificate in 1979, and saw that the cause of death was a suicide by a barbiturate overdose.
It was in a sadly way that Marilyn strayed away from Grace, in the same way she had strayed away from Gladys, a gap that Grace had known both to fill and to exploit. By making Gladys's daughter her own child, Grace had set up the chessboard of her potential futur abandonment because she had only too managed to change her friend's daughter in a creature, as in her dreams. She was also the one who had arranged Norma Jeane's wedding and also its dissolution by sending the young Norma Jeane living at her aunt's Minnie place, in order to obtain a fast divorce in Nevada, which could speed the first contract with the Fox up.Married to an idler skirt-chaser, and herself sick and drug addict, Grace couldn't stand her own life failure face to Marilyn's dazzling success.