New York Sun, January 14, 1933
HOLLYWOOD (AP) — Suffering from the effects of a tropical fever she contracted in Africa while filming the motion picture, “Trader Horn,” Edwina Booth, the woman star of the film, was reported today in a serious condition.

The actress’s mother, Mrs. James Woodruff, said her daughter is nervously and physically exhausted.

Almost two years later — on November 11, 1934 — the Syracuse American and many newspapers published a story by Russell J. Birdwell of the Universal News Service. Birdwell, perhaps because he had an exclusive interview with the actress, tended to go slightly overboard, beginning with his first line:

"Among the tragedies of Hollywood the name of Edwina Booth comes first."

Her tragedy would be compounded by a lawsuit she filed against MGM Studios, asking for $1 million in damages. Reportedly she settled for only $35,000, given on condition that she seek treatment in Europe.

Oh, yes, her first husband, Anthony Shuck, had their marriage annulled upon her return from Africa.

According to Birdwell's interview with Edwina Booth, the actress went home to her parents, expecting to die.

“But I wasn’t that fortunate," she said. "I’ve only learned what it means to die ... to be away ... to be denied life ... to know that I may never get better ... that I may never get worse ... just remain like this.

“Like this is to be so weak that you cry when you want to talk; to have pains go shooting through your head; to want to walk and be unable; to lie on your back in a darkened room, away from the sunshine you hate, and know that outside the parade has passed you by and that you’ll never be able to catch up with it again.”

Birdwell said the actress became a human guinea pig for people in the medical profession. "They agreed on one point: the tropical sun had poured its poisonous heat into the body of the girl, burning off the nerve ends and shattering, if not completely destroying, her nervous system."

The actress was 26 when "Trader Horn" was filmed in 1931.

According to Ms. Booth: “When we got into the Red Sea, on our way to Africa, I was told to take daily sun baths in order to acquire a tan for the picture. I took them every day, but my skin refused to darken. I didn’t know then that the sun was penetrating into my body. When I got off the boat in Africa I was so sick I could hardly stand, but there we were, 7,000 miles from the studio, and the picture had to go on. I played my part bareheaded and in scant attire, under the broiling sun. Everyone else wore pith helmets and wet cloths at the base of their brain.

“I began to wonder why I ached so, why my head throbbed, and why I fainted. When we got back to Hollywood there were still months of work to be done on the picture. I finished my role, with doctors and nurses standing by. Between scenes I had to lie down.”

She said she'd been abandoned by people in the film community, though "Trader Horn" co-stars Harry Carey Sr. and his wife, Olive, did provide financial support. (In the film, Olive Golden Carey played Ms. Booth's mother.)

The actress managed to appear in four films after "Trader Horn" before retiring in 1932. Carey worked with her in two of those projects — "Last of the Mohicans" and a serial called "The Vanishing Legion."

Explanations for her illness included effects of the sun and malaria. However, it was Katharine Hepburn, during an interview with Dick Cavett in the 1970s, who said Booth had contracted schistosomiasis, a disease caused by parasitic worms. The fact Edwina Booth spent a lot of time swimming for the cameras, often in the nude, makes this as good a diagnosis as any, especially since the disease is most commonly found in Africa.

And because she had to work without shoes, she was increasingly vulnerable to infections from the cuts and insect bites she received on her feet.

Additionally, as a child she suffered from hypoglycemia. An article in the Salt Lake Tribune by Harold Schindler stated that the young girl who grew up to be Edwina Booth never finished a full year of school because of her illness.

To make family matters worse, her father came down with the flu during the epidemic of 1919. He moved to Venice, California, to recuperate, his family joining him in 1921.

She made her first movie appearance in 1928 with a small role in "Manhattan Cocktail." She was 24 at the time, though later stories would subtract as many as five years from her age.

She married again in 1951. Her husband Urial Leo Higham died six years later. Then, in 1959, she married Reinhold L. Fehlberg, and they were together 25 years before he died in 1984.

Edwina Booth passed away on May 18, 1991, in a California nursing home. Anyone who would like to bring her back to life, for a few minutes, anyway, can watch the 1931 preview of "Trader Horn" on YouTube. The preview calls it "The most thrilling adventure movie of all time!" It may remind you of a much more famous film made two years later — "King Kong."