Skip to main content

Booth, Edwina, 1904-1991

 Person

Dates

  • Existence: 1904-1991

biographical statement

Edwina Booth (September 13, 1904 – May 18, 1991) was a film actress from Provo, Utah. Booth is best known for her role in the 1931 film Trader Horn, and for the illness she contracted during production. She got her start in show business in 1926, shortly after moving to California with her family. She took small parts in films and starred in theater productions like "Ghosts" and "Sun Up" until she finally landed the lead female role in Trader Horn - the "White Goddess" Nina T. Filming for Trader Horn began in 1929, and as the first non-documentary motion picture filmed in Africa, it received ample publicity in the United States and abroad. Conditions on set were difficult for Booth; she noted that her costume did not provide adequate protection from the sun and disease-carrying insects, and she and other crew members suffered through malaria. After Trader Horn's release in 1931, Booth starred in three serial films in 1931 and 1932: "The Vanishing Legion", "The Last of the Mohicans", "Trapped in Tijuana". However, she had become increasingly ill with an undiagnosed illness since her return, and it effectively ended her movie career. Booth sued Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studios for $1,000,000 in 1934, claiming that mistreatment on set had resulted in her illness, and the studio settled out of court for $35,000. She went to Europe seeking a cure, and was diagnosed with sleeping sickness. In total, she spent five years of her life suffering from the illness, and refused to speak of her time as a movie star for the rest of her life. In the years that followed her recovery, Booth became active in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and worked in the Los Angeles California temple. She married three times in her life, lastly to Reinold Fehlberg, whom she married on February 17, 1959. She died of heart failure May 18, 1991, in the Medallion Convalescent Hospital in Long Beach, California, at age 86.

Citation

Daily Herald, May 10, 2012: The sun sets on a falling star (Edwina Booth; started film career in 1926; starred in "Ghosts" and "Sun Up"; starred in 1931 and 1932 in "The Vanishing Legion", "The Last of the Mohicans", and "Trapped in Tijuana"; diagnosed with sleeping sickness in Europe; married three times in her life, lastly to Reinold Fehlberg on February 17, 1959; died in Medallion Convalescent Hospital in Long Beach, California)

The Salt Lake Tribune, June 9, 1991: pp. A1-A2 (Edwina Booth; born Josephine Constance Woodruff; sued Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer for $1,000,000 and settled out of court for $35,000)

The San Diego Union, May 23, 1991: p. A-37 (Edwina Booth; confined to bed by illness for more than five years; became active in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and worked in Los Angeles, California temple; died of heart failure at age 86)

Utah History To Go, May 10, 2012: Edwina Booth (Edwina Booth; b. September 13, 1904; d. February 17, 1959; costume provided inadequate coverage from insects and sun; endured malaria)

Found in 13 Collections and/or Records:

Edwina Booth papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MSS 2383
Scope and Contents This collection includes Edwina Booth's personal correspondence and papers, poetry, fan mail, publicity papers, photographs, and souvenirs from Africa. Also included are publicity papers for the 1931 film Trader Horn.
Dates: 1920-1993

Edwina Booth correspondence and personal papers, 1907-1994

 Sub-Series — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MSS 2383 Series 1
Scope and Contents This subseries contains Edwina Booth's personal papers. Because there is such an eclectic mix of items in this subseries' folders, the dates of origin vary widely, from 1907 to 1994. Included are personal correspondence, personal notes, travel memorabilia, invitations, newspaper clippings, a homemade book about her role as Nina T in trader Horn, testimonies and other documents related to her suit against Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer, obituaries (of Booth herself), documents related to the distribution...
Dates: 1907-1994

Edwina Booth fan mail, 1929-1987

 Sub-Series — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MSS 2383 Series 1
Scope and Contents This sub-series was originally arranged in 17 bundles of fan mail and a number of unbundled letters. Many letters are from countries in Europe, South America, North America, as well as India and Hong Kong.

The letters are primarily requests for autographed pictures from Edwina Booth, and many are in Spanish, Portuguese and French. The bulk of the correspondence is from 1929-1931.
Dates: 1929-1987

Edwina Booth (Josephine Constance Woodruff) Inventory

 Series
Identifier: MSS 2383
Scope and Contents From the Collection: This collection includes Edwina Booth's personal correspondence and papers, poetry, fan mail, publicity papers, photographs, and souvenirs from Africa. Also included are publicity papers for the 1931 film Trader Horn.
Dates: 1920-1993

Edwina Booth personal papers, 1907-1994

 Series
Identifier: MSS 2383 Series 1
Scope and Contents This series includes sixty-two folders. They contain Edwina Booth's fan mail, correspondence from her family, personal notes concerning property, travel memorabilia, a homemade book about Trader Horn, and documents related to the distribution of her estate after death. This series also includes a substantial collection of her poetry. There are two drafts of a book of poems that Edwina Booth wished to publish.
Dates: 1907-1994

Edwina Booth photographs, undated

 Series — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MSS 2383 Series 3
Scope and Contents This series is mostly comprised of Edwina Booth publicity portraits - pictures taken by photographers George Hurrell, Melbourne Spurr, Clarence Sinclair Bull, Fred Hartstook and others before the release of Trader Horn. As such, most of these photographs are circa 1929.This series also contains many photographs from the set of Trader Horn showing various scenes from the movie, and Edwina Booth in character as Nina T. Also included are several publicity portraits of Booth's co-star...
Dates: undated

Edwina Booth poetry, 1940-1975

 Sub-Series — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MSS 2383 Series 1
Scope and Contents This subseries contain poetry authored by Edwina Booth. The folders contain poems that are loose and untitled, titled poems that are arranged in a collection, and two drafts of the book "A Twin for Jackie" that would have been illustrated by her sister Ruth Woodruff Andrews. Booth wished to have the book published, but was ultimately unable to find a publisher.

Most of the poems were written circa 1940-1975, and some touch on her illness.
Dates: 1940-1975

Edwina Booth publicity papers, 1926-1993

 Series
Identifier: MSS 2383 Series 2
Scope and Contents This series is primarily concerned with Edwina Booth's role in Trader Horn, although there are also obituaries and substantial coverage on her theater career before Trader Horn. There is also material on Suzette Duncan's alienation of affections suit against Booth.

This series contains a subseries for Trader Horn publicity. It is mostly coverage on the production of Trader Horn in Africa.
Dates: 1926-1993

Edwina Booth publicity papers, 1927-1991

 Sub-Series — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MSS 2383 Series 2
Scope and Contents This sub-series is primarily concerned with Edwina Booth's role in Trader Horn, although there are also obituaries and substantial coverage on her theater career before Trader Horn. There is also material on Suzette Duncan's alienation of affections suit against Booth, and fashion articles.
Dates: 1927-1991

Edwina Booth souvenirs, circa 1929

 Series — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MSS 2383 Series 4
Scope and Contents Contains Edwina Booth's souvenirs from Africa, acquired in 1929 while filming Trader Horn. Includes a variety of carvings, jewelry, musical instruments, and other wooden and metal works.
Dates: circa 1929