Susan Cabot Biography

Typecast by her dark haired sultry good looks into playing ethnic roles in B-grade movies for major studios in the 1950s, Cabot's most entertaining and enduring work was done at the end of her career for independent producer-director Roger Corman. Born Harriet Shapiro in Boston, Massachusetts on July 9, 1927, Cabot spent a troubled childhood in a series of eight foster homes. It was while attending high school in New York City that she joined a dramatic club and began singing nights at Manhattan's Village Barn. Cabot appeared as an extra in the 1947 crime drama Kiss of Death shot in New York, but her big break did not come until Max Arnow, a casting director at Columbia, caught her performing at the Village Barn. In 1950 she was cast as the islander "Moana" opposite Jon Hall in the B-grade South Seas crime adventure film, On the Isle of Samoa. Veteran actor Jon Hall, later to gain television fame in the early 1950s in the title role of the syndicated show Ramar of the Jungle, committed suicide in December 1979 to escape a lingering death from bladder cancer. In 1951, Cabot's promising performance in the small role of Indian maiden "Monahseetah" in Tomahawk starring Van Heflin prompted Universal to sign her to an exclusive contract. At Universal, the young actress was relegated to exotic roles in costume dramas and Westerns. Cabot's films for Universal (released through Universal-International) include Flame of Araby (1952), Son of Ali Baba (1952, as "Tala"), The Battle at Apache Pass (1952), The Duel at Silver Creek (1952), Gunsmoke (1953), and her final film for the studio, Ride Clear of Diablo (1954). Fed up with the limited roles being offered to her in Hollywood, Cabot left the movies and returned to New York City to appear in the off Broadway stage production A Stone for Danny Fisher. The play (based on a Harold Robbins novel) opened at the Downtown National Theatre on October 21, 1954 to lukewarm reviews. Cabot received fourth billing in the production and was not mentioned in The New York Times review the following day. Prior to returning to films in 1957, the actress made her television debut on June 10, 1957 in the controversial Kraft Television Theatre production of "The First and the Last," a dramatization by Morton Wishengrad of a John Galsworthy story depicting suicide as an acceptable solution for human problems. Back in Hollywood, Cabot began a six film association with independent B-movie producer-director Roger Corman that effectively constitutes what film legacy she enjoys today. Corman immortalized the actress in a series of exploitation films covering the topics teen music (Carnival Rock, 1957), sex (Sorority Girl, 1957), gangsters (Machine-Gun Kelly, 1958, co-starring Charles Bronson), swordand- sorcery (The Saga of the Viking Women and Their Voyage to the Waters of the Great Sea Serpent, 1958), and science fiction (War of the Satellites, 1958; The Wasp Woman, 1959). As the title character in The Wasp Woman, Cabot's most memorable screen role, she injected herself with the extract of the royal jelly of wasps to prevent the aging process with predictably disastrous results. According to Cabot, she enjoyed working with Corman-"He gave me a lot of freedom, and also a chance to play parts that Universal would never have given me." Following the cult favorite The Wasp Woman, Cabot left the movies (although she continued to find some minor television and stage work) to devote herself to fundraising for film education and preservation programs. On the personal front, Cabot's life was as turbulent and erratic as her motion picture career. In 1944, the 18 year old married Edwin Sacker in Washington, D.C., but they separated in early 1951. Cabot next married businessman Michael Roman, but they too divorced. In April 1959, Cabot was a 32-year-old divorcee when she met Jordan's King Hussein at a Beverly Hills dinner party thrown by oil millionaire Edwin W. Pauley. The actress called Hussein, 24, "the most charming man I've ever met" and began a private (though highly publicized) multi-year relationship with the divorced Jordanian king that ultimately ended because Cabot was Jewish. In 1964, the unmarried Cabot gave birth to Timothy Scott Roman giving rise to speculation the child was not the offspring of former husband Michael Roman, but rather the son of King Hussein. If so, the child would be a half-Jewish, half-Arab direct descendant through the Hashemite Dynasty of the prophet Muhammed. Court papers intro - duced after Cabot's death showed that she received a monthly stipend of $1,500 from the Keeper of the King's Purse, Amman, Jordan, that could be interpreted as child support for Hussein's bastard son. Also presented were copies of letters from Cabot to the king in which she discussed the health of her son. Timothy Scott Roman suffered from dwarfism and from 1970 through 1985 was a participant in a federal program in which he was treated with an experimental growth hormone. The program was discontinued after certain batches of the hormone were found to be infected with a virus, Creutzfeldt-Jakob, a disease causing degeneration of the central nervous system. The experimental growth hormone was later found to have caused neurological damage in some patients. Roman was a 22-year-old art student at Pierce College sharing a dilapidated home in Encino, California, with his 59-year-old mother when he called police on the night of December 10, 1986, to report a horrible crime. Investigators arrived on scene to find the former actress savagely bludgeoned to death in her plush master bedroom. According to her son, an assailant dressed in a Ninja warrior robe entered the house and knocked him out. When he regained consciousness, Roman discovered his mother's body beaten with a steel shaft from a dumbbell and $70,000 in cash missing. Police immediately suspected Roman, a rabid martial arts movie fan with a fascination for Ninja weapons, who reportedly had a long-standing feud with his mother. Discrepancies in his account of the crime led to his arrest on December 15, 1986, and a charge of first-degree murder. Under advice of counsel, Roman pleaded inno - cent by reason of insanity citing the side effects he allegedly suffered as a test subject in the experimental drug hormone therapy study. In a brief filed with the court to move Roman to a jail closer to the site of his trial in Van Nuys, the defense attorney introduced the Hussein-Cabot connection that suggested the 22-year-old accused murderer was the love child of the Jordanian king. The deputy district attorney called the motion "really glamorous," but maintained it had nothing "to do with [Roman] killing his mother." Roman's first trial ended in a mistrial after his attorney became ill. With new counsel, he was retried in a non-jury trial in a Van Nuys courtroom in October 1989. This time, Roman changed his plea from "not guilty by reason of insanity" to "not guilty" to avoid being institutionalized if convicted. Medical testimony supported the defense's contention that Roman could have suffered brain damage (including memory loss) from the experimental growth hormone, and established his reasoning skills as those of a young child. Blood tests recorded prior to the killing showed a high thyroid count which could have produced confusion and disorientation. More telling, however, was the testimony given by Cabot's physician and psychiatrist. Her therapist for seven years portrayed the former actress as a suicidally depressed woman severely disturbed by an abusive childhood. Prior to the slaying, Cabot manifested irrational fears about her health, was bedridden, and disoriented. Roman testified that on the night of the murder he became frightened by his mother's hysterical screaming and tried to call paramedics despite her warnings not to contact anyone. Cabot appeared confused, and failing to recognize her son, demanded "Who are you?" She came at him with the barbell rod, he grabbed it from her, but could not remember striking his mother. He confessed to lying about the Ninjaclad intruder who struck him and admitted stealing the money because he was frightened. On October 10, 1989, Roman was convicted of the lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter by Van Nuys Superior Court Judge Darlene Schempp because she believed he did not plan to kill his mother. Cabot's son was subsequently given a three-year suspended sentence and placed on probation. Everyone, including Roman's grandparents, was satisfied with the ruling because it thoughtfully considered medical problems suffered by both Cabot and Roman that may have contributed to the killing.