Eugenia Lincoln Falkenburg’s mother hoped her daughter’s unusual nickname would bring the child luck. She may have been a “Jinx” to her parents, but to homesick GIs in the China-India-Burma Theater and select European locations, she was anything but.
Falkenburg was born January 21, 1919, in Barcelona, Spain, to American parents Eugene Lincoln and Marguerite Crooks Falkenburg. The family soon moved to Chile where Falkenburg—at the age of 2—garnered her first media attention in a New York Sun article that labeled her a “baby swimmer.” It was just a precursor to the kind of attention she would attract throughout her life.
A revolution in Chile spurred the family’s move to Southern California, where Falkenburg attended Hollywood High School. She quit at 16 to pursue a career in acting and modeling, having been discovered by a Warner Brothers producer while playing tennis. But it was photographer Paul Hesse’s image of her for the August 1937 cover of The American Magazine that helped launch her career. The cover generated 60 offers from other publications.
Eventually, the count totaled 200 magazine covers and 1,500 advertisements, including spots for Rheingold Beer. Being chosen as Miss Rheingold in 1940 was a huge break for Falkenburg, whose image appeared on billboards across the country.
The same year, she took her acting skills from the silver screen to the Great White Way in Al Jolson’s Hold Onto Your Hat. She met Jolson in a Hawaiian hospital while they both recuperated. Falkenburg had fallen through a balcony and landed on a table 30 feet below during a photo shoot.
After the opening of Hold Onto Your Hat, Army Air Forces Lieutenant Colonel John Reagan “Tex” McCrary interviewed Falkenburg, who reportedly stole the show, despite her small role in the musical. By 1942, McCrary and the star were about to be engaged, but America’s entry into World War II caused the pair to part ways. Both ended up overseas, though for very different purposes.
Falkenburg, who had two brothers in the military, began entertaining troops with the USO. A two-month tour to the China-Burma-India theater, the “world’s toughest theatrical circuit,” began in late 1944 and would cover 42,000 miles. Only 54 shows were scheduled, but she couldn’t deny a request. Fifty-four soon became 84, not counting hospital visits.
“Once you get going out there and see the guys, you want to stop
and do a show everywhere, for everybody,” she said during an
interview for Yank magazine’s China-
Burma-India edition. “Looking at the way the men were living and the roughness of it all and how far they were from home and how they were staying there when you were going back, your head didn’t turn at all. You felt like cheering them instead of being cheered.”
Though she and McCrary had taken different routes, their paths
Cairo early in 1945. During this meeting, they agreed the “very next day we see each other, we’ll be married,” according to her biography, Jinx. It took six months, but they married in June 1945.
Married life didn’t keep Falkenburg from touring on behalf of the troops and the USO. In 1948, she traveled to Berlin with Bob Hope and Irving Berlin to participate in Christmas shows for airmen and occupation soldiers during the Berlin Airlift.
After the war, she and McCrary also popularized the talk show format, first on radio with a program called, Hi, Jinx, and later on television with a program titled At Home. The couple had two sons and separated in 1980, but never divorced and remained friends.
Jinx Falkenburg died August 20, 2003, nearly a month after her husband. She was 84. He was 92.
Samantha L. Quigley is the editor in chief of ON★PATROL.