Helen Gahagan Douglas | Top 10 actors turned politician

Congresswoman who coined the nickname "Tricky Dick" for Richard Nixon.

During the 1920s, Helen Gahagan was a well-known Broadway star. She also starred as ice-queen Hash-a-Motep in the 1935 film She, a role which coined the phrase "she who must be obeyed" and which inspired the character of the evil stepmother in Disney's 1937 animated feature film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. She married Oscar-winning actor Melvyn Douglas in 1931, and when she first stood for elected office in 1944, she did so under the name Helen Gahagan Douglas.

She was elected a Democrat to the House of Representatives from California's 14th district in 1944, and served three full terms in Congress. During this time, it has been alleged that she conducted an affair with future president Lyndon B. Johnson, who was then also in the House of Representatives, having been elected in Texas.

In 1950, she ran for the Senate, winning the Democratic nomination from incumbent Sheridan H. Downey and Manchester Boddy, the then-publisher of the Los Angeles Daily News. She was opposed for the seat by Republican candidate Richard Nixon. She was widely seen to have been the victim of a smear campaign, with Nixon impugning her voting record and calling her "the pink lady", a reference to her supposedly Communist leanings. In response, Douglas coined the enduring nickname "Tricky Dick" for Nixon. She lost the election by 680,000 votes, and retired from politics.

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Caroline Crampton is assistant editor of the New Statesman.