Born 1924 in Cape Town, South Africa, American actress Hazel Brooks was the daughter of a sea captain. Her father died when she was three years old, and she moved with her mother to Brooklyn, New York. She became a model for Harry Conover when she was 16.
A talent scout picked Brooks and five other models to appear in the MGM film Du Barry Was a Lady (1943). She made a series of pictures at the studio during the 1940s, culminating with a supporting role in the 1947 film Body and Soul with John Garfield.
A photo of Brooks by Durward Garyhill was voted “Most Provocative Still of 1947” by the International Society of Photographic Arts in January 1948. She had captured almost as much attention three years earlier in 1944 when, at age 19, she married the long-time head of her studio’s fabled art department, Cedric Gibbons, then 54. The wedding occurred on October 25, 1944. Although the age difference inspired a certain amount of winking in the gossip columns at the time, the marriage proved a strong one and lasted until Gibbons’ death in 1960. Brooks subsequently married Dr. Rex Ross (1908-1999), a surgeon and founder of the Non-invasive Vascular Clinic at Hollywood Hospital.
According to long-time friend Maria Cooper Janis, Gary Cooper’s daughter, Ross in the years after her retirement from films became a skilled still photographer. She also worked actively for a number of children’s charities.
She had subsequent roles in Arch of Triumph and Sleep, My Love in 1948, as well as The Basketball Fix (1951) and The I Don’t Care Girl (1953).
Brooks died in 2002, aged 78, in the Bel Air residential district of Los Angeles. Take a look at these gorgeous photos to see the beauty of young Hazel Brooks in the 1940s.