Judith Evelyn with Vincent Price in a scene from her first Broadway hit, “Angel Street.” Photo credit: vincentpricenut2.com

Meet the Character Judith Evelyn: An Act of Survival, Part 4

Two weeks after being rescued in the North Atlantic from the overturned bow section of their wrecked lifeboat, Canadians Judith Evelyn and her former fiancé, Andrew Allan, boarded another ship in Glasgow, Scotland, hoping to return home. (See Judith Evelyn: An Act of Survival, Part 3, April 2, 2015.)

Evelyn, a stage actor, and Allan, a writer and radio producer, had been aboard the British passenger liner Athenia when a German submarine attacked the ship Sept. 3, 1939. This time they were sailing on an American passenger ship, the Orizaba.

The U.S. government chartered the ship to bring home American survivors of the Athenia tragedy. One reason the Canadians found space on the American ship may have been because Orizaba would sail without a naval escort, in spite of the recently declared war between England and Germany. The United States was a neutral country and the U.S. government believed an escort was unnecessary. Many American survivors protested when they learned there would be no escort and several refused to go because they didn’t trust the German navy to observe the neutrality laws.

The fact that Evelyn had been born in Seneca, South Dakota, as noted on the original Athenia manifest, may have helped to secure her passage on the American ship. Curiously, on documents she completed with regard to the voyage, she listed herself as “Judith Evelyn Allan.” Perhaps she and Allan claimed to be formally engaged or even married, in order to help secure his passage. Neither Evelyn’s detailed description of her Athenia experiences nor Allan’s autobiography mentions this oddity.

In any case, when Orizaba docked in New York Harbor Sept. 27, 1939, Evelyn and Allan went their separate ways, although they remained friends for the rest of their lives.
Evelyn moved to New York City in 1940 to pursue her acting career on Broadway. She landed a featured role in “Angel Street,” playing opposite Vincent Price, who would remember her two decades later for a film project. “Angel Street” ran from 1941 to 1944 and earned the New York Drama League’s Distinguished Performance Award for Evelyn in 1942. Other Broadway successes followed, most notably “Craig’s Wife” in 1947 and two productions of “The Shrike,” in 1952 and ’53.

From Broadway, Evelyn moved on to movies, receiving featured roles as “Miss Lonelyhearts” in Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rear Window” and as “Queen Taia” in Darryl F. Zanuck’s production of “The Egyptian,” both in 1954. She had a small role in the movie “Giant” in 1956, and three years later she appeared with Vincent Price in the horror film “The Tingler.” Throughout the 1950’s and early ‘60’s she appeared in numerous American television series. Evelyn was never seen as a star in movies or television, but she enjoyed steady work as a character actor in more than 50 productions.

Andrew Allan went on to compile a distinguished career as a pioneer producer and director of radio drama. He was the national head of radio drama for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation from 1943 to 1955. A prolific and talented writer as well, Andrew was credited with helping to develop a Canadian “voice” in North American drama.

Evelyn never married and died of cancer in 1967 at age 58 in New York City. Allan, who was briefly married twice, died in Toronto in 1974. He was 67.

Thomas Sanger View more

Thomas C. Sanger is a journalist and author residing in San Diego, CA with his wife, author Kay Sanger. His forthcoming novel, Without Warning, is a historical novel about the British passenger ship Athenia, which was attacked by a German submarine only a few hours after England declared war on Germany at the start of World War II in 1939.

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