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Lee Bowman (Dec 28. 1914  -  Dec 25. 1979)
Height: 6' (183 cm)
Weight: 170 pounds

Marriage: Helene L.
Rosson, writer and radio interviewer (1941 - until his death). Helene was Victor Fleming's stepdaughter and from 1933 to 1935 married to Jaime Del Valle)
Children: Lucien Lee Bowman Jr. (b. Oct 19. 1943), stepdaughter Helene Del Valle Harper (Apr 4. 1934 - Jan 12. 2000)
Lee Bowman in 1937
Above right: Lee Bowman in 1937.
 
Born as Lucien Lee Bowman December 28.1914 in Cincinnati, Ohio (USA). His thrice-married mother, Elizabeth "Bessie" Pringle Brunson Fauntleroy Bowman Clyde, grew up as Southern aristocracy on Kingstree, the Brunson family plantation outside Charleston, SC. But there was a hex on Bessie's private life. Both her mother and her grandmother would fatally burn - in 1912 in accidents with a fireplace and an overheated stove, respectively. And her first husband Dr. Thomas T. Fauntleroy of Staunton, Virginia, a dentist and mineral-water entrepreneur from Staunton, Virginia, contracted a debilitating illness. Her second husband, Luther Lee Bowman, also was from a Staunton family who owned a department store and hotel. Luther Bowman, who was active in harness racing, started a local department store himself in 1912 before moving Bessie and his sons to Cincinnati in 1914 to start the brewery with his brother, when it failed, he became an income tax collector. He died in the mid-1920s. Bessie Clyde died in 1967, age eighty-four. Bessie bore her second husband, Luther Lee Bowman, three sons: Lee, Pringle, and Hunter.
After that marriage fell apart, Bessie married a wealthy distant cousin, William Clyde supported Lee's pursuits of singing and dancing at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music as well as varsity athletics (gymnastics and track) in public school.  After attending Franklin Grade School, Lee graduated from the Walnut Hills High School in Cincinnati. While Lee was attending high school, his sister, Rowena, met with some success on Broadway, which at that time strangely had little effect upon her brother's ambitions. Colleagues remembered his prowess in ice hockey, baseball and track.  Lee befriended the Cincinnati native Tyrone Power, and in state track meets challenged the future fastest man in the world, Cleveland's Jesse Owens. Nevertheless Lee enrolled as a law student at the University of Cincinnati. Since his parents descended from a long line of lawyers, judges and ministers, this didn't come as a total surprise.
From time to time his singing voice on the radio earned him extra spending money. Lee could not divorce the idea of an acting career. When Bowman entered Columbia University in 1932, he was bent on lawyering. Fred Astaire movies changed his life. "If he can do it, I can do it".  Reportedly when he left the theater, he had a fierce ambition, he was going to be an actor. He reasoned that, if anyone could improve in acting within a few years as much as the star of the film he had just seen, actors must be made and not born. That night he talked the whole question over with his mother; he wanted to leave law school at once and start training for his new career.
Finally, she said: "Go ahead, Lee. You've got the enthusiasm. And I believe you have the talent." He promptly enrolled at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts.
 
So began a career as a stage actor and radio singer in the '30s. Following several years of stock, Lee entered a partnership as part owner of a New Hampshire stock company. His performances there resulted in his being signed to play the lead in Berkeley Square (1936) in New York. Talent scouts caught him in this, and the next year saw him in Hollywood making his film debut in movies such as Internes Can't Take Money (1937) and I met Him in Paris (Paramount, 1937) a romantic comedy starring Claudette Colbert, Mervyn Douglas, and Robert Young. At age nineteen he had a Paramount contract. Following this he spent seven years playing second leads, often as a playboy thanks to his suave, elegant style and dapper, handsome looks.
After two years with Paramount (1937-38) he went to RKO where he was dropped after five films (1938). Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer now signed him to a long term-contract (1939).
 Ginger Rogers, Lee Bowman, Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and Dorothea Kent in RKO's "Having a Wonderful Time" (1938) "Man to Remember" (RKO, 1938) Lee Bowman with Anne Shirley.
Above left: (L to R): Ginger Rogers, Lee Bowman, Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and Dorothea Kent in RKO's Having a Wonderful Time (1938)
Above right: Man to Remember (RKO, 1938) Lee Bowman with Anne Shirley.

Lee Bowman with Helen Del Valle (November 1939)Not only Lana Turner and Norwegian film star skater Sonja Henie but also Wendy Barrie and Lee Bowman were reported as "composing one of Hollywood"s newest romances" (Barrie in November 1938). However Cupid's arrow struck target when Helene Fleming and Lee (pictured right) first met at the West Side Tennis Club in August 1939. Lee's younger brother Hunter, who together with their mother lived with Lee in Beverly Hills, said, "Helen was a good tennis player and she was not stupid, she set her sights on Lee and got him.
Not been able to get her stepfathers approval Helene in 1941 eloped with Bowman to Tijuana, Mexico.

Near the end of May 1941 Bowman decided to send seven-year-old "little Helene" his wife's daughter from her first marriage to Ojai for boarding school. Fleming felt the child was getting short shrift from her mother and stepfather. He already thought she spent more time with nannies than with them, so they could attend their social whirl. Lee and Helene weren't allowed on Fleming's property ever again. Although little Helene and Lee Bowman Jr., born in 1943, did come for visits.

 
 In "Stronger than desire" (1939) he played opposite Virginia Bruce and Walter Pidgeon, with whom he is often mistaken on photo credits. "Dancing Co-Ed" (1939) with Lee Bowman & Lana Turner
Above left: In M-G-M's Stronger than desire (1939) he played opposite Virginia Bruce and Walter Pidgeon, with whom he is often mistaken on photo credits.
Above right: Dancing Co-Ed (1939) with Lee Bowman & Lana Turner
 Fred Zinnemann's feature debut "Kid Glove Killer" (1942), a neat, an enjoyable whodunit about the hunt for the killer of the town's crusading mayor. Van Heflin, as the dedicated forensic scientist, demonstrates a mini-dustette to collect evidence from human scalps. Marsha Hunt plays his wisecracking assistant who despairs of his ever realizing that she's a woman, and Lee Bowman as the blandly suave killer. Ava Gardner has a tiny role as a waitress. Jean Arthur and Lee Bowman in "Impatient Years" (1944) showing the reality behind wartime marriages...
Above left: Fred Zinnemann's feature debut Kid Glove Killer (1942), a neat, an enjoyable whodunit about the hunt for the killer of the town's crusading mayor. Van Heflin, as the dedicated forensic scientist, demonstrates a mini-dustette to collect evidence from human scalps. Marsha Hunt plays his wisecracking assistant who despairs of his ever realizing that she's a woman, and Lee Bowman as the blandly suave killer. Ava Gardner has a tiny role as a waitress. During a fight scene between Van Heflin and Lee Bowman, Fred Zinnemann had to cut the scene and start over because both of the stars toupees came off!
Above right: Jean Arthur and Lee Bowman in Impatient Years (1944) showing the reality behind wartime marriages...
 
He left M-G-M after five years. Bowman had complained to Louis B. Mayer constantly about always being cast as second lead. Mayer suggested he might be happier elsewhere. He was - at Columbia. Harry Cohn gave him top billing, but in movies that were seldom of top quality.

Never a major star, he began concentrating more on his stage work in the late '40s. As many celebrities do, he also had several guest roles on radio (and subsequently on TV). He was heard on The Old Gold Comedy Theatre, episode "Vivacious Lady", an adaptation by Malcolm Meechan on NBC November 19. 1944. In this comedy Bowman was heard opposite Harold Lloyd and Linda Darnell. On radio he was also heard in Screen Guild Theatre (with Paulette Goddard), Inner Sanctum, several episodes of  Suspense (1945) and Cavalcade Of America (1946-1953).
 
 
 With the tagline "Too thrilling for words, so they set it to music! " "Cover Girl" hit the screens in 1944, it starred Rita Hayworth, Lee Bowman and an energetic Gene Kelly. In "Tonight and Every Night" (1945) a photographer for Life magazine comes to London to do a story on a local theater troupe which never missed a performance during World War II. Flashbacks also reveal the backstage love affair between star Rosalind Bruce (Hayward) and a British flyer played by Bowman.
Above left: With the tagline "Too thrilling for words, so they set it to music! " Cover Girl hit the screens in 1944, it starred Rita Hayworth, Lee Bowman and an energetic Gene Kelly.
Above right: In Tonight and Every Night (1945) a photographer for Life magazine comes to London to do a story on a local theater troupe which never missed a performance during World War II. Flashbacks also reveal the backstage love affair between star Rosalind Bruce (Hayward) and a British flyer played by Bowman.
            Interior shot in the Westwood Hills bungalow of the Bowmans. From left to right, girl scout Helene has her mother's name, Lee Bowman with Lee Bowman Jr. and Mrs. Helene Bowman (May 1946)
Above: Interior shot in the Westwood Hills bungalow of the Bowmans. From left to right, girl scout Helene has her mother's name, Lee Bowman with Lee Bowman Jr. and Mrs. Helene Bowman (May 1946)  (Toronto Star Archives)
 
In the fall of 1946, George Murphy, the song-and-dance man who became a Republican senator from California, invited Bowman to make a speech in Whittier for “some young guy named Dixon or Nixon” running for Congress from a district that included San Dimas. “Murphy suggested he take my mother along and make a day out of it,” Lee Bowman Jr. recalls. “My mother replied, ‘Go to Whittier for a speech? You’ve got to be out of your mind! Call up your mother, she’ll go anywhere to listen to you!’ So he and my grandmother went, Richard M. Nixon defeated Jerry Voorhis, and the rest is history.” Bowman’s freshman congressman of choice became an influential member of HUAC.

The success of Columbia's Cover Girl wasn't left unnoticed and Hollywood teamed Bowman several times with the lovely Susan Hayward. Hit it big time in the mid '40s. In 1948 Susan Hayward got nominated for her role in Smash-Up: The Story of a Woman (1947) The film loosely based on the life of Dixie Lee (wife of Bing Crosby) tells the story of a nightclub singer who marries a rising singer and falls into alcoholism when she gives up her own career. In this movie Bowman had difficulties working with Hayward. Between takes they barely exchanged a word. Bowman at the time made no effort to conceal his hostility toward Susan from the day the production started. "Of the many stars I've worked with," he later said, "she was the only one with whom I ever had any difficulty." Blaming it on her inexperience and the great pressure she was under.
A great deal of difficulty, actually came from the fact that he was seething with resentment. When he had signed for the film, he had been certain it would make him a major star after ten years as an also-ran. After ten days of shooting, however, he no longer had any such illusions; he felt he was being shafted by Susan, by Heisler and by Walter Wanger.
  Susan Hayward got nominated in 1948 for her role in "Smash-Up: The Story of a Woman" (1947) The film loosely based on the life of Dixie Lee (wife of Bing Crosby) tells the story of a nightclub singer who marries a rising singer and falls into alcoholism when she gives up her own career. Joan Blondell, Dick Powell and Lee Bowman in a publicity shot for "Model Wife" (1948).
Above left: Susan Hayward got nominated in 1948 for her role in Smash-Up: The Story of a Woman (1947) The film loosely based on the life of Dixie Lee (wife of Bing Crosby) tells the story of a nightclub singer who marries a rising singer and falls into alcoholism when she gives up her own career. Carleton G. Young (that other Ellery Queen) also had a small part in this movie.
Above right: Joan Blondell, Dick Powell and Lee Bowman in a publicity shot for Model Wife (1948).
 
Although his father-in-law, Victor Fleming was the director, he couldn't land the role of the Dauphin in the Ingrid Bergman version of Joan of Arc (1948). Fleming said "I chose José Ferrer not only because he approximates a physical resemblance to the character, but because I knew he would attack the part with more enthusiasm than some actor who wished to return home to the swimming pool,” a rare public swipe at Lee Bowman. He also missed out on Flamingo Road (1949) when Joan Crawford preferred David Brian as her leading man.  He lost a Bette Davis picture when the star thought he photographed too young.

In the pilot for My Favorite Husband Lee Bowman played George opposite Lucille Ball.  He had to bow out of the regular series due to contractual obligations. He was replaced by Richard Denning
(CBS Radio July 5, 1948).
In
House By the River (1950) directed by Fritz Lang. Louis Hayward accidently kills his maid while trying to seduce her, and enlists the aid of his crippled brother (Lee Bowman) to dispose of her body. Bowman is blamed for her death when the corpse washes ashore later. Also with Jane Wyatt and Dorothy Patrick.
On radio he was heard in 1950 in Theater Guild On the Air (aka U.S Steel Hour) an anthology series which brought hour long dramas. In A Life in Your hands, a murder melodrama and courtroom procedural created by Erle Stanley Gardner Lee Bowman was one of the actors who played Jonathan Kegg (in 1951). This fictitious hero represented neither the prosecution nor the defense in the murder stories, but was allowed to examine witnesses on both sides in order to learn the truth. Erle Stanley Gardner only contributed his name.

He briefly (80 episodes) starred in the TV series
The Adventures of Ellery Queen (1951-52) as Ellery Queen. "I find myself working forty hours a week on just the twenty-four-minute Ellery Queen show itself. Additional guesting on such shows as Theatre Guild of The Air, Studio One, Curtain Call, Cavalcade of America serves to add hours to my work week, and break up my weekends with the family. On top of that, I'm active in several other business ventures ... ."
Lee Bowman stars in the title role of Du Mont's, thrilling series, "The Adventures of Ellery Queen".Lee in the Ellery Queen Adventure "The Red Hook Murder".Lee Bowman and Jean Carson in "The Man Who Killed Cops" (1951)
Above left: Lee Bowman stars in the title role of Du Mont's, thrilling series, The Adventures of Ellery Queen.
Above middle: Lee in the Ellery Queen Adventure "The Red Hook Murder"
Above right: Lee Bowman and Jean Carson in "The Man Who Killed Cops" (2/1/1951)
After the EQ series he stayed on the East Coast to do Broadway shows, front TV spectaculars for an auto concern, supervising of his mother's 1,000-acre farm in Kingstree South Carolina (cotton, tobacco and timber), conduct a real estate-insurance firm with his brother, act as director of a commercial film concern, perform on a weekly drama over NBC radio and appear on the panel show, Masquerade Party. In the latter a panel of celebrities met with another celebrity who was in heavy make-up and/or costume; this disguise would always provide clues to the celebrity's actual identity.
During his 1952 Eastern activity he was named "Best Dressed Man" and moved his household to a roomy home on Long Island (actually New Canaan, Conn.).

Bowman also appeared regularly on television including five guest appearances in the television series Robert Montgomery Presents
(1950-57). In Eye Witness (1953) he hosted this 30 minutes NBC show which premiered on March 1, 1953. Lee presented a TV game show called What's Going On? which lasted five weeks in late 1954. The six panelists were divided into two groups, the in's, who remained in the studio, and the out's, who went outside. The in's had to guess what the out's were doing.
Bowman also hosted the NBC television Max Liebman spectaculars (aka Max Liebman presents or The Sunday Spectacular) in early 1955 which had 40, 000, 000 televiewers.
Lee felt the best work of his career was done as Nick Carraway in the Robert Montgomery presentation of "The Great Gatsby" (May 9. 1955).
Studio One, Lux Video Theatre and Show of Shows helped to make Bowman one of TV's most popular performers. "Back in those days you were supposed to be either a movie actor or a television actor," he recalled. "If you went into a TV show, you were considered something of a traitor. About the only ones doing TV in those days were Ralph Bellamy, Robert Montgomery and myself"
  Robert Montgomery Presents, Lee Bowman, Robert Montgomery and Jane Wyatt, 1950. In the episode "The Awfull Truth'' Lee and Jane played Jerry and Lucy Warriner (Air date September 11, 1950). Lee Bowman with his wife Helen Rosson in the Stork Club (1955).
Above left: Robert Montgomery Presents, Lee Bowman, Robert Montgomery and Jane Wyatt, 1950. In the episode "The Awfull Truth'' Lee and Jane played Jerry and Lucy Warriner (Air date September 11, 1950).
Above right: Lee Bowman with his wife Helen Rosson in the Stork Club (1955).
 
In the theater we played with Uta Hagen, Edith Meiser and Robert Preston in The Magic and the Loss (April 9. 1954 - May 1. 1954), a play by Julian Funt and directed by Michael Gordon made it's way after tryouts in Pittsburgh,... to Broadway where it was performed 27 times, a flop. Oh, Men! Oh, Women was performed in Newport, R.I. in August 1955 and featured Lee Bowman, Judith Braun and John MacKay.

On May 13. 1958 Bowman was assaulted by a mugger on a midtown street in New York City. He suffered a sprained shoulder, knee scratches and possible toe injuries.

Patate
(Oct 28. 1958 - Nov 1. 1958) was a play which was written by Marcel Achard based on the book by Irwin Shaw. This comedy in three acts played on Broadway for a meager 7 performances and had Tom Ewell, Susan Oliver and Lee Bowman as a few of the members of the opening night cast.

Jean Kerr's Mary, Mary with Patricia Smith, John Lasell was produced by Roger S. Stevens and directed by Joseph Anthony (Sep 1962). Bowman was one of the stars. (There was also was a New York and London cast for this play). "Mr. Lee Bowman plays the movie star the way a movie star should be played. It is quite evident that all his television side excursions have had no ill effect on his splendid talents".
 
In 1961 he played Private Investigator Jeff Thompson in Miami Undercover. This private Eye was hired by the Miami Hotel Owners' Association to keep the city crime free. Former boxer Rocky Graziano played assistant Rocky with Thompson posing as a sophisticated man about town. The First-Run Syndication series ran for 38 episodes. 
 
   Star Lee Bowman en pretty Jil Jarmyn raise Rocky Graziano's mitt in victory as his pugilistic prowess convinces some dirty gamblers to return the jewels they conned out of a wealthy matron in the episode "Triple Cross" on "Miami Undercover", March 8. 1961 Eva Gabor and Lee Bowman in Youngblood Hawke (1964)
Above left: Star Lee Bowman en pretty Jil Jarmyn raise Rocky Graziano's mitt in victory as his pugilistic prowess convinces some dirty gamblers to return the jewels they conned out of a wealthy matron in the episode "Triple Cross" on Miami Undercover, March 8. 1961
Above right: Eva Gabor and Lee Bowman in Youngblood Hawke (1964)
 
After this Bowman retired from the screen with the occasional exception such as a role in the movie Youngblood Hawke in 1964 and the role of Ted Langer on TV in The Fugitive episode: "Detour on a Road Going Nowhere" (1964).  Beautiful Elizabeth Allen offers Kimble a one-night stand but Kimble refuses. Later on a bus fellow traveler Langer (Bowman) finds Elizabeth more than a little enticing. Elizabeth tells Kimble watch this and crosses her legs letting her skirt rise. Kimble looks away but Langer practically breaks his neck trying to get a good look. Elizabeth then demurely uncrosses her legs and pulls her skirt down and smugly smiles at Kimble. Langer's wife (40's movie star Phyllis Thaxter) has seen what happened and it is clear Langer will have some explaining to do. Elizabeth tells Kimble that he may be like Langer in a ten years, dreaming of the "legs that got away."

Reportedly Lee gave up acting after a disastrous experience with Elaine Stritch in an off-Broadway production of Private Lives in 1968.
 
   Lee Bowman guested as Charles Grattner, in "Fall of the Skylark - The Trial," a two-parter involving a gambling ring operating from within a plush motel, in ABC-TV's "Judd for the Defense", 1968. Lee Bowman counsels GOP candidates on making the most of TV appearances (Aug 23. 1970)
Above left: Lee Bowman guested as Charles Grattner, in "Fall of the Skylark - The Trial," a two-parter involving a gambling ring operating from within a plush motel, in ABC-TV's Judd for the Defense, 1968.
Above right: Lee Bowman counsels GOP candidates on making the most of TV appearances (Aug 23. 1970)
        Standing here (L to R) Lee Bowman, Henry Mancini, Jimmy Stewart and Hoagy Carmichael at a salute to Hoagy Carmichael, in Los Angeles, sponsored by the Indiana University Alumni Association, 1973.
Above:  Standing here (L to R) Lee Bowman, Henry Mancini, Jimmy Stewart and Hoagy Carmichael at a salute to Hoagy Carmichael, in Los Angeles, sponsored by the Indiana University Alumni Association, 1973.
 

Living in Mandeville Canyon in Los Angeles he remained friends with Cesar Romero (owner of a low-priced men's clothing store in Los Angeles), John Payne, and Steffi Duna, the widow of his close friend Dennis O'Keefe.

After his role in The Fugitive for five years he became the radio and TV consultant in Washington. After Bowman's speech in a 1946 a lifelong friendship had ensued between the actor and the Nixon culminating in Bowman taking emcee jobs at the 1968 and 1972 Republican national conventions and subsequent inaugural balls, and a 1969 media consulting post with the National Republican Congressional Committee that gave him use of a Capitol Hill office. 

This was followed by a consultant job for Bethlehem Steel, coaching politicians and businessmen in speaking and on-camera techniques.

From 1974 until his death, he was Chairman of the Kingstree Group, an international consulting firm, which offers communication advice to business and political leaders all over the world. Kingstree's global headquarters is now located in London, England. Bowman was responsible for developing the 'conversational' approach to spoken communication, which is recognized today as the only successful model for business and political presentations and media interviews.  Asked if he missed acting he replied: "Not a bit. The only thing my job lacks now is billing. The rest is all there - famous people, travel, and some egos that would put my contemporaries to shame."

Lee died, 3 days before officially becoming a senior citizen,  in Brentwood, Los Angeles of a heart attack on December 25. 1979.

 

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References
(1) IMDb
(2) Wikipedia
(3) OTRRpedia
(4)
Radiogoldindex
(5) Whatever became of ...? Fifth series by Richard Lamparski
(6) Victor Fleming : an American movie master by Michael Sragow
(7) IBDB

(8) Susan Hayward: Portrait of a Survivor by Beverly Linet

Additional video & audio sources
(1) My Dream is Yours (1949)
(2) Ellery Queen episode "Murder to Music" (1951)

 

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Page first published before Oct 19, 2017 
Last updated November 3, 2022
 

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