Exalted by her adoring fans as "Belita, the Ice Maiden", this Hollywoodlady-in-waiting to 'Sonja Henie' , was born Maria BelitaJepson-Turner in Hampshire, England on October 21, 1923. Trained indance not long after learning how to walk (age 2), she went on to studyballet with Sir 'Anton Dolin (I)' . Belita's father was a militaryofficer and mother the daughter of a royal physician to King EdwardVII. The mother was a strong-armed presence when it came to Belita andimmediately geared her daughter towards becoming a star ballerina.
Using skating to build up her overall strength, poise and endurance,ice soon took over Belita's life completely. A remarkably lithe andgraceful athlete, she appeared in the Olympic games of 1936 at the ageof 12(!) and turned professional two years later where she continued tokeep her name, talent and reputation in the limelight. She also spokefour languages and played the violin. After the Norwegian Henie became a major Hollywood commodity with filmextravaganzas being built around her prowess as a skater, it was onlynatural that England's version follow suit. Lovely Belita made herminor film debut as an ice dancer in the Republic Pictures movie Ice-Capades (1941) , alongside other hard-water talents such as'Lois Dworshak' , 'Megan Taylor (I)' and Republic filmstar-to-be 'Vera Ralston' .
Belita's next film, however, put herprominently into the co-starring ranks. Silver Skates (1943) mayhave been a mediocre ice musical soap drama with a number of slipperyangles but she was front-and-center. She followed this with atop-billed role in the lowbudget Monogram Pictures' Lady, Let's Dance (1944) , in which she played under her ownname. Here she's a war refugee/waitress/dancer who replaces the show'sprima donna star at the last minute, and the romantic drama that ensueswith her leading man. In it Belita gets to show off every aspect of herdance capabilities -- ballet, ballroom and, of course, ice.
It was tobe her last movie vehicle on hard water for while Henie had a bigstudio (Fox) promoting her, Belita had only a "Poverty Row" build-up. No contest. Determined to maintain a post-war acting career, Belita decided to setfoot on solid ground with purely dramatic vehicles. Her first was asuspense film aptly titled Suspense (1946) starring heavyweights'Barry Sullivan (I)' and 'Albert Dekker' . Although thisfilm-noir had an ice-skating setting and, yes, Belita does skate, thepicture evolves this time around the dramatic plot.
She hung up herskates while appearing with Sullivan again in The Gangster (1947) , with 'Preston Foster (I)' in The Hunted (1948) , and enjoyed secondary roles in the classicmystery The Man on the Eiffel Tower (1949) starring'Charles Laughton' , and the rugged adventure/drama Never Let Me Go (1953) with 'Clark Gable (I)' . Laughtonwent on to utilize Belita on stage in one of his popular revivals of"The Cherry Orchard" (1950). She later went on to appear in theaterproductions of "Twelfth Night," "Ulysses in Nighttown" and "DamnYankees!"Belita's overall career started to wane in the 1950s. All during thistime, however, Belita still was a spectacle to behold on ice,performing in capades, shows and extravaganzas all over the world,particularly in London. After over two decades, she abruptly retiredher skates in 1956 and soon bid Hollywood farewell as well.
She didappear in the second segment of 'Gene Kelly (I)' 's three-partexperimental film Invitation to the Dance (1956) and had a minorunbilled part in Silk Stockings (1957) before she retired. In1964 she came out of nowhere, however, to star in the Argentinian film La terraza (1963) [The Terrace], then was gone again. Divorced from actor 'Joel McGinnis' in 1956, she spent a greatertime in England and later married Irish-born actor 'James Berwick (I)'(aka James Kenny) in 1967. She opened a garden centre in West London,and subsequently retired for the most part to the south of France whereshe remained out of the public eye. Her second husband died in Londonfrom natural causes in 2000.
She had no children by either husband andpassed away in France on December 18, 2005, at age 82. .
|1||Suspense||1946||as Roberta Leonard, aka Roberta Elva|
|2||The Man on the Eiffel Tower||1949||as Gisella Heurtin|
|3||Whats My Line||1951||as Herself - Celebrity Challenger|
|4||A Good Idea: Son!||1953||as Herself|
|5||Ice-Capades||1941||as Ice Capades Skater|
|6||Invitation to the Dance||1956||as The Femme Fatale in 'Ring Around the Rosy'|
|7||La terraza||1963||as Belita|
|8||Lady, Lets Dance||1944||as Belita|
|9||Never Let Me Go||1953||as Valentina Alexandrovna|
|10||Screen Snapshots: Holiday in Las Vegas||1947||as Belita|
|11||Silk Stockings||1957||as Vera|
|12||Silver Skates||1943||as Belita|
|13||The Gangster||1947||as Nancy Starr|
|14||The Hunted||1948||as Laura Mead|
|15||Erskine Johnsons Hollywood Reel||1949||as Herself|
|16||Face the Music||1953||as Herself|
|17||The Ed Wynn Show||1949||as Herself|