The moment people saw Margaux Hemingway’s beautiful face, they knew she was destined to be a star. It looked as though Margaux had a bright future ahead of her, as a supermodel and Hollywood actress, and that her very famous last name would help pave the way.
But alas, Margaux’s inner demons halted her success, stopping her career and life short. One theory blames the “Hemingway Family Curse” for her troubles, while others maintain that Margaux was a tormented woman who needed help. See for yourself by delving into the short, tragic life of the magnificent Margaux Hemingway.
Margaux Hemingway was born to Jack Hemingway and Byra “Puck” (née Whittlesey) on February 16th, 1954, in Portland, Oregon. Her father, Jack, was the oldest son of the legendary American novelist Ernest Hemingway, and his godparents were Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas.
After spending her first few years in Oregon, Margaux’s family moved to Cuba, where her grandfather had resided. After Cuba, they moved to San Francisco, California, and then to the Hemingway farm in Ketchum, Idaho. They would spend the summers on her mother’s family’s farm in Salem, Oregon.
The Hemmingway’s lived a lavish lifestyle no matter where they were located. They were a well-known, notorious family and spent their time in the company of other socialites and celebrities. It seemed that their life was something to envy. However, what they revealed to the public wasn’t the whole truth.
Behind closed doors, things weren’t so glamourous. Margaux’s mother, Puck, never truly loved her husband, Jack. He sensed her resentment and turned to alcohol for comfort. Margaux was the middle child of three daughters. The eldest, Joan, was nicknamed Muffet, and the youngest was named Mariel.
Margaux remembered her grandfather, Ernest Hemingway, vaguely from her early childhood in Cuba. She once said, “he was big and burly—I used to sit on his knee.” However, in 1961, the whole world, and the Hemingway family especially, received heartbreaking news.
Ernest had taken his own life with a shotgun on his Idaho farm. The author’s violent death left his family in mourning and chaos. The young girls’ home life became even more complex, and their parents neglected them, busy with their grief. Margaux longed to escape.
After she was born, Margaux’s mother and father spelled her name- Margot. However, after Margaux was told that she had been conceived after a night of drinking red Bordeaux “Chateau Margaux” wine, she changed the spelling of her name.
Growing up on Hemingway’s farm in Ketchum Margaux, and her sisters learned to “ride, catch trout, ski and drink tequila at a cowboy bar.” In her junior year of high school, Margaux moved back to Oregon to study at Catlin Gabel private school in Portland, after which she would start her modeling career.
Margaux was already six feet tall by the time she reached her teens. She began using her height and beauty to get into the local bar beginning at age fourteen. Margaux needed to blow off steam and escape her chaotic family. According to her sister Mariel, Margaux was “completely wild.”
She began to disregard any rules or reprimands that her parents attempted to tame her with and did whatever she pleased. Margaux would cut school to go partying and even skied down challenging slopes while under the influence. A troubled teen, Margaux was dreaming big, getting ready to break free.
Despite her big dreams, Margaux’s unhealthy coping mechanisms and bad habits exacerbated the onset of early mental and physical struggles. By age twenty, she was already suffering from bulimia, alcoholism, depression, and epilepsy. At first, Margaux sought therapy, but soon her bad habits took the wheel, and she stopped trying to quit.
Margaux knew what she wanted and was prepared to do whatever it took to get it. The young beauty wasn’t ashamed to use her stunning face and body to become a supermodel. After high school, she got a job working for a PR firm in New York.
Margaux was excited to find opportunities in the Big Apple but was quite naïve when it came to the rough life of New York. Margaux wanted to impress the people who mattered in the modeling industry but also gained attention from people who wanted to take advantage of her.
The 19-year-old soon caught the eye of Errol Wetson, an older man. Weston liked the look of Margaux and was determined to charm her. So, he used his influence to find out where she was staying and arrived at her room with champagne and a single rose in hand.
Margaux fell head over heels for Wetson and ignored the obvious red flags he was displaying. Only four months after they first met, Margaux moved with Wetson. They lived as guests with their friend, artist Zachary Selig, in an apartment owned by Gloria Vanderbilt.
Despite falling deeply in love, Margaux was still determined to make it in the fashion industry, and Errol wanted to help her do so. However, soon he took control of just about every aspect of the young girl’s life and career by becoming her manager.
Errol took Margaux to exclusive parties at the infamous New York club, Studio 54, where she would socialize with influential celebrities like Andy Warhol, Bianca Jagger, Grace Jones, and Liza Minelli. But not all that glitters is gold- Wetson also controlled what Margaux wore and constantly criticized her body.
Zachary Selig had a hand in introducing Hemingway to some influential figures who would help jump-start her career too. These connections included fashion designer Halston, photographer Francesco Scavullo, Vogue editor Francis Stein, Revlon owner Jon Revson, and Women’s Wear Daily editor Marian McEvoy.
Sadly, Margaux was repeating her childhood trauma by staying in an unhealthy relationship. Though fortunately, by the mid-’70s, her professional life was going well. The young Hemingway was on her way to becoming one of America’s most famous supermodels when she scored a million-dollar modeling contract with Fabergé.
Dubbed “New York’s New Supermodel,” Margaux was gracing the covers of Vogue, Cosmopolitan, and Elle. But while her new modeling lifestyle had gained her friends in high places and quite the fortune, her substance abuse was getting out of control as she began experimenting with drugs.
Margaux’s NY lifestyle was even more lavish and chaotic than her early life back home with the Hemingways. The model was constantly hungover and felt forced to work hard to stay in the favor of the crucial people who ran the fashion world. Next, she made the rash choice to tie the knot with her elderly beau Errol Wetson in 1975.
However, the marriage wasn’t built to last and didn’t seem to solve any of their issues. Instead, things became worse between the two, and in 1978, she called it quits. Sadly, Margaux lost many friends when she divorced Errol.
Margaux was ready to take the next step in her career and try to dabble in acting. She was given her big break by Lamont Johnson, as the lead in his thriller, Lipstick. Margaux was set to star opposite Anne Bancroft and excited to make her mark in Hollywood. But she made one mistake.
When the studio began looking for someone to play Margaux’s on-screen sister, the model suggested her actual sis Mariel for the role. When the movie came out, it was clear that between the two girls, everyone preferred Mariel. The younger Hemingway had stolen the spotlight.
One review by Robert Firsching read, “[Margaux] Hemingway, a model in real life, plays a model here and somehow manages to be unconvincing. Much more believable is Mariel Hemingway, Margaux’s real-life 15-year-old sister, making her film debut as Margaux’s 15-year-old sister. Mariel steals her big sister’s movie and demonstrates that she’s a star in the making. ”
Firsching continued, “Mariel Hemingway showing that one must suffer to make it in Hollywood. Mariel — even at 15 — left no doubt as to who the actress was in the Hemingway family.”
Margaux and Mariel were never very close because of the seven-year age difference between them. Mariel later shared that she saw her older sister as stupid and was utterly mortified by the crazy young woman’s life choices. In addition to their differences, the two beauties’ similar looks only aggravated their rivalry.
Margaux responded to the critical preference for Mariel by falling deeper into her usual spiral of self-destruction. She felt totally insecure and began to resent Mariel and regret ever suggesting her for the role. Soon their rivalry became a full-blown family feud.
Margaux wasn’t such a bad actress, but Mariel was a great one, so she paled in comparison. Nevertheless, Margaux scored another prominent role in the 1979 movie Killer Fish. But meanwhile, Mariel was cast in an even more impressive role in an A-list film.
Mariel acted in Manhattan, the famous Woody Allen film, as the high school girl the lead falls for. Critics loved the teenage Hemingway, and it seemed that Mariel had surpassed Margaux once and for all. The disappointed Margaux dealt with it by spiraling the drain publicly.
Margaux felt humiliated when her little sister became the bigger star. So, the model went down another road of bad decisions while in the public eye. She once more entered a whirlwind romance and decided to get married to Bernard Foucher, a Venezuelan director.
The public was shocked by her spur-of-the-moment nuptials. But there had been rumors about her and Foucher’s dalliance before, even she was still married to Wetson. After tying the knot, the infatuated couple moved to Paris for a year.
Margaux had become quite bitter and carrying around so much disappointment and so many demons starting to weigh on her. Moving to Paris somehow only made things worse. Margaux and Bernard were a lively part of the Parisian social milieu and hosted many memorable parties in their home.
The most memorable part was Margaux’s behavior. According to some French socialites who attended Margaux and Bernard’s events, the hostess would loudly go on about impolite things, including “her sex life with Bernard” and other taboo topics.
Despite her luxurious lifestyle, the French city just wasn’t suitable for Margaux. So, at the beginning of the ’80s, the beautiful and troubled young woman decided to move back to the US and give acting another try. Unfortunately, she didn’t secure any prominent roles, only supporting parts.
In 1982 Margaux appeared in two comedies, They Call Me Bruce? and Over the Brooklyn Bridge. The actress didn’t garner any acclaim for her roles, but she was able to regain some respect. It seemed that her life was finally back on track!
But just as Margaux was beginning to feel like everything would be all right, tragedy struck again. In 1984 Margaux was involved in a freak accident while skiing. She was severely injured on the slopes, and her recovery lasted almost a year.
While she was unable to exercise due to her body’s trauma, Margaux gained 75 pounds. For the self-conscious model, this was even more devasting than her accident. The poor woman’s self-esteem was tied up with her appearance, and she began to feel ugly and worthless.
The young starlet was heartbroken over her weight gain and felt like she was living in a nightmare. Suddenly, Margaux couldn’t count on her good looks, and she felt like she had no cards in her hand.
In 1985, her marriage with Bernard fell apart as well, leaving Margaux to fend for herself. Slowly but surely, Margaux sunk into a deep and debilitating depression. And in 1987, when she reached her lowest point, she made an important decision. Margaux was ready to turn things around and heal.
Margaux had reached rock bottom and knew that she had no choice but to make a change. But she came to the realization that she didn’t have to do it on her own and reached out for professional help. Margaux decided to check herself into rehabilitation at the Betty Ford Center.
After leaving rehab, Margaux seemed like a changed woman. The model had worked off her excess pounds and had invested herself in hiking and yoga. She was ready to embrace wellness and was trying her best to maintain balance.
Margaux’s homelife had always been unhealthy, and after moving to Hollywood, she visited the family farm even less. Margaux and her mother, Puck, had never gotten along, so they grew apart even more, when the model moved away. It took a family tragedy to bring them back together.
By 1988, Puck was on her deathbed after battling cancer for over thirteen years. So, the estranged daughter worked up the courage to return home and reconcile with her mother. The two women finally made peace before Puck passed on.
Margaux was trying to stay in control and to continue making positive changes. She attempted to make it in the movies once again and was cast in the French film Love in C Minor. However, she couldn’t hold on to her new habits for long and soon went back to her old self.
In 1990 Margaux Hemingway posed for Playboy. The actress was on the cover, alongside the title “Papa said, flaunt it!” And in the centerfold, Margaux went au naturel, baring it all and gaining the attention she sought.
As time progressed, Margaux took her yoga and meditation habits further and became highly invested in Eastern spirituality. Her friends shared her interests, but after she took things too far, they became concerned about her.
A fellow model and friend, Cheryl Tiegs, recalled that Hemingway sat outdoors and claimed that she was communicating with the birds. Tiegs claimed, “Everyone would come in the house and whisper and think it was kooky.” However, her inner circle accepted her nonetheless and did nothing to prevent her eccentricities.
In 1994, Margaux traveled to India to learn more about Eastern spiritual practices and find enlightenment. However, instead of being a beneficial journey, her trip became a nightmare when the unstable Hemingway suffered a mental breakdown.
Her loved ones think that Margaux had an epileptic seizure while in India. Sadly, due to the culture and language barriers, she acted erratically and found herself in jail. After a while, Margaux’s family was able to track her down, and they bailed her out and brought her home to get help.
Margaux’s shocking antics were always in the spotlight, but the actress was simply following the footsteps of her less famous elder sister, Muffet. Mariel was the only stable one of the three, and while she prospered, the two older girls sunk in substance abuse.
Margaux returned to alcohol, and Muffet turned to hallucinogens, like LSD. Still living at home, Muffet’s drug use and unhealthy family life caused her to snap. The oldest Hemingway sister violently threatened her parents and was hospitalized. Muffet was later diagnosed with bipolar schizophrenia.
Margaux was a spontaneous, erratic, impulsive person, and she spent her whole life running from her family and her past. Ironically, her flighty, unpredictable behavior is what made her so much like her infamous grandfather. The model confessed that she had barely read any of Hemingway’s work.
People were shocked by her aversion to her grandpa’s novels and couldn’t understand Margaux’s attitude. She would often claim, “I am not a Hemingway aficionado.” If she’d read his novels, Margaux might have realized that she was just like Ernest: passionate and unpredictable.
Two years after breaking down in India, Margaux felt ready to go back to work and scored a role in a Discovery Channel series. Margaux was set to become the host of Wild Guide and was excited to gain new and exciting experiences.
She moved out to Santa Monica, California, which seemed to be the ideal location for a new beginning. Santa Monica was known for its friendly neighbors and safe community. Margaux was invigorated and full of optimism about her new venture. But things didn’t go her way.
Maybe Margaux just wasn’t ready to be on her own again, for just days after relocating to Santa Monica, her new neighbors became worried. The close-knit community shared that Margaux had a “troubled” tone and appeared “disturbed and haggard,” causing them to be concerned about her well-being.
But, since Margaux was a newcomer, no one came forward to offer her aid, and people just kept their distance. Unlike them, Margaux’s loved ones could tell something was wrong and were getting scared. They didn’t know how to help her.
A long-time friend of Hemingway’s, Judy Stabile, knew that Margaux was spiraling and tried to reach out. Judy became concerned for her friend’s safety and called her every day. But soon, Margaux stopped picking up, so after a few days, Stabile drove over to her house.
Judy saw that Margaux’s car was parked out front, but no one would come to the door. Becoming increasingly worried and fearing the worst, Judy found a ladder and climbed it to peek into Margaux’s bedroom window. What she saw scarred her for life.
Stabile saw right away that she had arrived too late to save Margaux. Hemingways body lay on her bed, motionless. Judy and two construction workers knocked down the door, hoping to save her, but Margaux was too far gone. Margaux Hemingway had died on July 1st, 1996, at age 42.
Stabile was extremely traumatized and attributed Hemingway’s untimely death to an epileptic seizure. Margaux’s body had been badly decomposed, suggesting that she’d been dead for several days when Judy found her. Soon an autopsy would reveal the cause of death.
The late Hemingways loved ones were waiting for the results of her autopsy to give them closure, but at first, the results came back inconclusive. This caused her family to think that it must have been her epilepsy. However, a toxicology report soon revealed that something completely different had ensued.
Margaux had extremely high levels of phenobarbital in her system, causing authorities to conclude that the woman had overdosed. Most people believed that Margaux had purposefully taken her own life, but her sister Mariel remained in denial.
Mariel simply refused to believe that her sister, and life-long rival, had committed suicide. Her then-husband, Stephen Crisman, even claimed in an interview with People Magazine, “This was the best I’d seen [Margaux] in years. She had gotten herself back together.”
Margaux’s father, Jack, and stepmother, Angela, on the other hand, remained quiet about their daughter’s death. The reason for their silence was a family feud that had erupted in the early ’90s when Margaux had revealed a horrible secret about her past, causing them to cut ties with each other.
Margaux had always been troubled, and most people hashed her behavior off to puberty and youthful rebellion. Of course, when her bad habits continued into her adult life, Margaux was shamed for being provocative and unstable. But in truth, the young woman had actually been desperately trying to forget her childhood traumas.
In the early ’90s, Margaux revealed the truth and shared the real reason she and Muffet had struggled so much. Margaux alleged that they had suffered molestation at the hands of her father from a young age.
A few years before she passed, Margaux had opened up to the public about her father, which explained what he and her stepmom had cut her off completely. They denied Margaux’s allegations and were so angry that they didn’t even comment on her death.
They hadn’t spoken for two years when Margaux killed herself. But Angela still had some mean things to say about her stepdaughter. She called Margaux “nothing but an angry woman” and claimed her stepdaughter purposefully spread lies constantly. But soon, the truth would be exposed.
In 2013, Mariel took part in a documentary called Running from Crazy, about the Hemingway family. In the film, Mariel backs up Margaux’s accusations towards their father. Mariel recalls seeing Jack go into Margaux and Muffet’s room in the middle of the night.
Mariel shared that the only reason she was spared from her father’s abuse was because her mother protected her. Mariel slept in bed with her mom till a late age. Many people reached out to Mariel after the film’s release to share similar stories.
It had seemed as if Margaux was getting back on her feet, so what had gone wrong? Why had she killed herself? Finally, after years of speculation and sordid theories, one of Margaux’s final voicemails was released to the public.
Two days before she was found, Hemingway had left a message on a friend’s machine. At the time, her friend hadn’t understood its significance. But looking back, it’s clearly a goodbye. At the end of the voicemail, Margaux said, “God loves you. God loves you, and I love you too.”
It may have taken years, but Mariel finally accepted that her sister had taken her own life. However, in Running from Crazy, she shared that Margaux’s suicide would always haunt her. Looking back, she understood Margaux’s bad life decisions and empathized with her.
Mariel will never know peace, but at least she finally understands and knows the truth. Mariel opened up about her family’s history of mental illness and expressed that she’s scared it will afflict her too. Like the Kennedys, it’s rumored that the Hemingways also have a family curse.
Ernest and his granddaughter Margaux weren’t the only Hemingways to die prematurely. Their family curse has struck as many as seven other members of the Hemingway clan within only three generations. Ernest’s father killed himself at age 29, as did three of his siblings.
Not only that, but just about everyone in the family suffers from severe substance abuse. From the author’s famous love for the bottle, and Jack and Puck’s “wine time” every night, to Muffet’s LSD addiction and Margaux’s alcoholism, no wonder Mariel is terrified.
Ernest Hemingway is remembered for more than his tragic death, rather for his talent as an author and his larger-than-life personality. Likewise, Margaux Hemingway is fondly remembered for her striking beauty. Furthermore, in retrospect, her work as an actress has gained appreciation and even cult value.
Hopefully, in years to come, the Hemingway family will heal from their trauma and leave behind their curse before it claims any more lives. Mariel has led a healthy and prosperous life, as has her daughter Dree Hemingway who is also an actress and model.