Rita Johnson
Rita Johnson.jpg
Johnson in 1937
Rita Ann Johnson

(1913-08-13)August 13, 1913
DiedOctober 31, 1965(1965-10-31) (aged 52)
Resting placeHoly Cross Cemetery, Culver City, California
Years active1935–1957
Stanley Kahn
(m. 1940; div. 1943)

Edwin Hutzler
(m. 1943; div. 1946)

Rita Ann Johnson (August 13, 1913[1][2] – October 31, 1965) was an American actress.[3]

Early years

Johnson was born in Worcester, Massachusetts, the daughter of a single mother, Lillian Johnson.[4]

She worked as a waitress in her mother's lunchroom and sold hot dogs on the Boston-Worcester turnpike.[5] She later attended the New England Conservatory of Music.[citation needed]


Early in her career, Johnson was busy in radio. "By 1936 she... was appearing in ten radio shows a week."[5] She played the leading role in Joyce Jordan, M.D..[6]

Johnson began acting on Broadway in 1935 and started her film career two years later. She played a murderer in Here Comes Mr. Jordan (1941) and a doomed wife in the RKO film noir They Won't Believe Me (1947).[7]

In an incident that was never fully explained, Johnson suffered a head trauma on September 6, 1948 that required brain surgery.[8] Unsubstantiated rumors promulgated by gossip columnists such as Walter Winchell suggested she might have been abused by a boyfriend, but the only explanation she offered was that a large, industrial-grade hair dryer at her apartment had fallen on her.[5] She was in a coma for two weeks and it was reported, "It took her a year to recover. Her left side was paralyzed temporarily, and for a while she couldn't walk."[9] It put a virtual halt to her film career. Her screen time in movies after that was limited due to her reduced mobility and powers of concentration.

Personal life

Johnson was married to businessman L. Stanley Kahn.[4] They were granted a divorce on June 29, 1943.[10] She was married to Edwin Hutzler from 1943 to 1946, when they were divorced.[7] A Democrat, she supported Adlai Stevenson during the 1952 presidential election.[11] She was also a practicing Roman Catholic.[12]

Johnson suffered from alcoholism from the time of her injuries until her death of a brain hemorrhage on October 31, 1965, at age 52.[7][13]

Partial filmography

Radio appearances

Year Program Episode/source
1943 Lux Radio Theatre My Friend Flicka[14]
1952 Family Theater The Crossroads of Christmas[15]


  1. ^ Parish gives year of birth as 1912, but her grave marker says 1913.
  2. ^ Parish, James Robert; Bowers, Ronald L. (1974). The MGM Stock Company: The Golden Era'. Allan. p. 379. ISBN 0-7110-0501-X.
  3. ^ "Rita Johnson". BFI. Retrieved March 6, 2016.
  4. ^ a b "Rita Johnson Near Death From Hair Drier Blow". The Post-Standard. September 11, 1948. p. 1. Retrieved June 8, 2015 – via Newspapers.com. open access
  5. ^ a b c Weinstock, Matt (August 13, 2013). "The Booby-Trapped Life of Rita Johnson". Los Angeles Review of Books. Retrieved May 19, 2021.
  6. ^ "What's New from Coast to Coast" (PDF). Radio and Television Mirror. 14 (1): 8–9, 80. May 1940. Retrieved February 26, 2015.
  7. ^ a b c Rita Johnson at IMDb
  8. ^ "Film Star Succumbing To Mystery Injuries". The Evening News. September 10, 1948. p. 1. Retrieved June 8, 2015 – via Newspapers.com. open access
  9. ^ "Rita Johnson Battles for Comeback Movie Roles". The Times. June 11, 1952. p. 17. Retrieved June 8, 2015 – via Newspapers.com. open access
  10. ^ "Divorce Granted to Rita Johnson". The Milwaukee Journal. June 29, 1943. Retrieved June 9, 2015.
  11. ^ Motion Picture and Television Magazine, November 1952, page 34, Ideal Publishers
  12. ^ Morning News, January 10, 1948, Who Was Who in America (Vol. 2)
  13. ^ "RITA JOHNSON, 52, ACTRESS IN FILMS; Mother in 'My Friend, Flicka' !s Dead in Hollywood". New York Times. November 3, 1965. Retrieved May 19, 2021.
  14. ^ "Lux Theatre Guest". Harrisburg Telegraph. Harrisburg Telegraph. June 5, 1943. p. 17. Retrieved December 23, 2015 – via Newspapers.com. open access
  15. ^ Kirby, Walter (December 21, 1952). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. p. 44. Retrieved June 8, 2015 – via Newspapers.com. open access