Beautiful and mercurial Jessie Reed was discovered by Jake Schubert in 1918 and put in the cast of his revue, "The Passing Show." Her dark good looks and graceful dancing captured attention, so Schubert installed her in the Sigmund Romberg musical "Sinbad" where her skill determined Florenz Ziegfeld to steal her for his 1919 Midnight Frolic. She stayed on in Ziegfeld's 1920 rooftop entertainment, "The Girls of 1920," and was featured in the Follies from 1921 to 1924.
Jessie Reed's greatest performances did not take place on the stage of the New Amsterdam Theater. In the 1920s she became famous as one of the most shameless gold-diggers in the country. She married twice for love, to blackface vaudevillian Oliver de Brow and performer Lew Reed, but found passion turned to dispassion all too quickly, so she opted for money, marrying two millionaires and an heir to a fortune. All found her high maintenance and manic.
By 1935, she was alone, impoverished, and receiving relief money from theatrical charities. She attempted to support herself as a nightclub hostess in Chicago, but was incapable of keeping regular hours or a civil tongue. She died indigent, at the age of 42. She became in death a favorite moral exemplum of what happens to spoiled beauties. Her daughter, Ann Carroll De Brow, was trying out for the Follies when Ziegfeld died in 1932. David S. Shields/ALS