The Lives of Justine Johnstone

Follies Star, Research Scientist, Social Activist


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About the Book

As a Ziegfeld Follies girl and film actress, Justine Johnstone (1895–1982) was celebrated as “the most beautiful woman in the world.” Her career took an unexpected turn when she abruptly retired from acting at 31. For the remainder of her life, she dedicated herself to medical research and social activism. As a cutting-edge pathologist, she contributed to the pre-penicillin treatment of syphilis at Columbia University, participated in the development of early cancer treatments at Caltech, and assisted Los Angeles physicians in oncology research. As a divorced woman in the 1940s, she adopted and raised two children on her own. She later helped find work for blacklisted Hollywood screenwriters and became a prominent participant in social and political causes. The first full-length biography of Johnstone chronicles her extraordinary success in two male-dominated fields—show business and medical science—and follows her remarkable journey into a fascinating and fulfilling life.

About the Author(s)

Kathleen Vestuto is a former theatre professional working in the nonprofit social services sector. She lives in New York City.

Bibliographic Details

Kathleen Vestuto
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 224
Bibliographic Info: 59 photos, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2018
pISBN: 978-1-4766-7276-2
eISBN: 978-1-4766-3131-8
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix
Preface 1
1 From the Forest of Funnels 5
2 Talent Counts Only 10 Percent 12
3 Patience Rejoices in Hardship 20
4 Ziegfeld’s American Beauty 26
5 Oh, Boy! 38
6 The Land of Frocks and Frills 46
7 The Most Awful, Cheap Trash 60
8 Some Change 67
9 Real Art 77
10 Actress-Manager 90
11 The ­Two-a-Day 98
12 A Tissue of Lies 109
13 The Wife of Justine Johnstone’s Husband 116
14 Influence of Velocity 123
15 Like Paradise 133
16 Hollywood Snapshots at Random 139
17 Medical Arts 145
18 The Bliss of Uncertainty 151
19 Her Name Is News 156
20 The Most Elementary Emotions 163
21 Women’s Activities 168
22 Walter, My Dear 173
23 Producer, Agent, Dramaturg and She Still Looks Lovely 179
24 Her Own Woman 187
Chapter Notes 195
Bibliography 204
Index 207

Book Reviews & Awards

• “If an author capture’s my attention and makes me want to know about someone I never really thought of before, that is a sign of a great book…. The Lives of Justine Johnstone is interesting, informative and well written. Vestuto has done an excellent job of bringing her to life… The author has surrounded her career facts with an insight and understanding of a lady who was deniably ahead of her time…when you read this book, you’ll agree that it fits Johnstone…. I admire Vestuto’s ability to tell the story as fully as she did. I also enjoyed her dedication to straightening out the facts of Johnstone’s accomplishments and getting the story right… Take a chance on someone you might not be familiar with. You will be rewarded by a life worth hearing about…. A 2019 Best Book”—Classic Images
• “Fascinating…. The book tells a truly remarkable life story. Vestuto also gives the reader a rich picture of the changing times.”—Pop Culture Classics