Hollywood Lights: Inna Gest

Inna Gest, an Odessa-born actress, tried to live the Hollywood dream, playing leading ladies roles during WW2. 

Based on the materials by Obscure Actresses

Inna Gest was born on February 11, 1921, in Odessa, Ukraine, to Arseny Gest and Maria Kaminina. The family moved a round quite a lot during her earliest years, and lived in Czechoslovakia and Poland for a brief time.

In 1925, her parents immigrated to the US, and settled in California. Her brother Vladimir (called Walter) was born in 1928. Inna graduated from Hollywood high school in 1939 and decided upon a showbiz career. A major factor in that decision was her uncle, Morris Gest (Moishe Gershnowitz), a well known theater producer who gave Inna her first push by introducing her to all the important people.

Inna started her career as a typical starlet with strong familial connections, but grew into a working B class actress and was rarely featured in the papers. Inna started with Babes in Arms. Her next one was one of the best (and the first) Harry Aldich movies, What a Life and Fast and Furious.

The Golden Trail
Six Gun Gospel
Northwest Outpost

Inna got noticed by the studio brass and her career went up. She had her first credited role, and a female lead one at that, in the not-that-bad low budget western, The Golden Trail, playing opposite Tex Ritter.

She continued the trend, playing leading ladies in man’s movie (where the female lead is mostly decorative and not as important to the plot as the male lead’s machinations). Her next movie was Boys of the City, where she played second fiddle to the East Side Kids. She reached the pinnacle of her career in Gun Code, again as the female lead. A well paced western with a good balance of characters, story and action, it is certainly one of Tim McCoy’s best movies.

“Boys of the city”, Bobby Jordan, Inna Gest, Leo Gorcey, 1940
Photo: rottentomatoes
“Boys of the city”, Leo Gorcey, Dave O’Brien, Eugene Francis, Inna Gest, Ernest Morrison, Bobby Jordan, 1940.
Photo: rottentomatoes

Inna’s change to become a solid actress was gone by the time she returned to the movie arena in 1943, when her husband was off fighting in World War Two.

In 1943 she made You Can’t Beat the Law, a run of the mill low budget thriller, two well made war movies, Hangmen Also Die! and The North Star. Both can still be seen on television today. Inna’s only movie in 1945 was Bring on the Girls, a sparking, vivacious comedy with Eddie Bracken and Veronica Lake.

After the filming was over, Inna decided to devote more time to her infant daughter and husband and gave up Hollywood for the time being.

Tim McCoy, Lou Fulton, Inna Gest, and Robert Winkler in Gun Code (1940)

Inna married Clarence H. Peterson in the early 1940s. Their daughter Victoria Inna Peterson was born on November 6, 1944.

Inna married Alex Gorbenko in San Francisco in the late 1940s. He was born on November 6, 1895 in Russia, moved to the US and became a naturalized citizen in 1932. They divorced a few years later.

Inna married her third and last husband, Alexander Istomin. Istomin was born on June 12, 1923, making him the only husband who was younger than Inna. Like Grobenko, he was born in Russia and became a naturalized US citizen

Inna Gest Istomin died on December 31, 1964, from hepatitis B, aged only 43.

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