King in Munsey's Magazine 1920/21
|Born||Allyn S. King
February 1, 1899
North Carolina, U.S.
|Died||March 31, 1930
New York City, New York, U.S.
|Cause of death||Suicide|
|Resting place||Mount Hope Cemetery|
King's 1930 suicide was the end result of her long struggle to satisfy the demands put on her by directors and producers to remain abnormally slim.
King was born in North Carolina to Allen S. and Phoebe (née Whitaker) King. The year following her birth, the King family was living in Winston (now Winston-Salem) where her father was a medical student. Allen King was from Louisiana and after receiving his degree in the early 1900s returned to his home state to set up a medical practice in Morgan City. Phoebe King’s family was from Goldsboro, North Carolina some 54 miles southeast of Raleigh where some press accounts indicate Allyn King later lived. 
On May 19, 1909, Leroy Oliver, a 16 year-old son of a deceased doctor, walked into Dr. King’s Morgan City office and fatally shot him. Oliver later told police that Dr. King had allegedly taken advantage of his sister. At the time of her husband’s murder, Phoebe King and her daughters, Phoebe and Allyn, were visiting relatives in North Carolina.
King’s stage career began at an early age. By the time she was 15, she was performing in vaudeville as a singing comedian at New York’s Proctor’s Twenty-Third Street Theatre, and the following year as a comedian and dancer with Ziegfeld’s Top-O-The -Clock Review.
In September 1916, she replaced headliner Justine Johnstone after Johnstone quit as a result of Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr.'s refusal to let her boyfriend visit her dressing room. King would remain with Ziegfeld for five seasons before achieving a modicum of success on Broadway in the early 1920s.
She played Alicia Bonner in the 1920 Avery Hopwood hit comedy Ladies' Night that had a run of 360 performances at the Eltinge Theatre on 42nd Street and Louise Endicott in the successful 1924 William LeBaron and Con Conrad musical comedy Moonlight over its 174 run at Longacre Theatre. King toured in the 1925 play Seduction, a production that featured dancing harem girls. Her other Broadway shows, Sun Showers (1923), Florida Girl (1925) and 90 Horsepower (1926), all had short runs.
King appeared at least one silent film, The Fighting Blade (1923), in which she played Charlotte Musgrove, the sister of Thomsine, whose lover, Dutchman Karl Van Kerstenbrook, had come to England to serve in Oliver Cromwell's army.
In 1927, King almost died after putting herself on a near starvation diet compounded with diet pills in an attempt to maintain the boyish figure in vogue at the time. She spent nearly two years recovering at a sanitarium before leaving to live with an aunt in New York City. King’s desire to weigh some twenty to thirty pounds below her optimum weight was fueled by the following clause in her working contract.
It is expressly made a part of this agreement and is an essential part, therefore, that if at any time you should during the term of the said arrangement, increase in weight more than sixteen pounds or decrease in weight more than ten pounds or let the dimensions of any part of your figure vary more than one-half inch from the following, weight 115 pounds, neck 12 ½ inches, bust 34 inches, upper arm 11, lower arm 7 ½, waist 26, hips 34, thigh 18, calf 12, ankle 8 ½, then and in that event we shall have the right to cancel this contract upon giving you one week’s notice.
After King left the sanitarium to live with her aunt, she studied music with aspirations toward a possible career in radio.
In 1924, King was reported to be engaged to Carl Wiedemann, a wealthy brewer from Newport, Kentucky and owner of the race horse In Memoriam. Wiedemann later released the statement, “I am neither married nor engaged."
On March 29, 1930, a depressed King leapt from her aunt’s fifth story apartment to a courtyard below. She had left behind a note lamenting the fact that she would never return to Broadway. King survived the fall with broken limbs and fractured skull that her doctors were confident she could recover from. Though King was alert and seemed to be in good spirits, her health took a turn for the worse a day or so later and she died of her injuries on March 31, 1930. The year before German actress Marietta Milner’s death was also attributed to excessive dieting to meet her contractual obligations.
Nearly two hundred people attended King’s funeral service at the Campbell Funeral Church on Broadway and 66th Street that was followed by a private interment attended by her mother, sister, close friends and family at Mount Hope Cemetery in Hastings-on-Hudson (now called the Westchester Hills Cemetery).
- "Miss King Lived in Goldsboro 20 Years Ago". Burlington Daily Time. 1930-03-03. p. 2.
- "North Carolina Presents". Laurel Daily Leader. 1924-06-20. p. 1.
- Allen and Phoebe King – Winston, NC-1900 US Census Records – Ancestry.com scan
- "Boy Kills Physician". New-York Tribune. 1909-05-20. p. 1.
- "For Vaudeville Patrons". The New York Times. 1914-02-22. p. X7.
- "When "Candida" Was New". The New York Times. 1915-05-16. p. X7.
- "Follies Beauty Quits". Syracuse Herald-Journal. 1916-10-17. p. 96.
- Allyn King at the Internet Movie Database
- Allyn King at the Internet Movie Database
- "Failure to Keep Boyish Figure Causes Suicide". Oshkosh Daily Northwestern. 1930-03-31. p. 14.
- "Wiedman Denies He Will Wed Star". Sandusky Register. 1923-11-27. p. 1.
- "Ill From Dieting Singer Tries to Die". The New York Times. 1930-03-30. p. 22.
- "Miss King, Actress, Dies After Leap". The New York Times. 1930-03-31. p. 12.
- Addison, Heather (2003). Hollywood and the Rise of Physical Culture. Psychology Press. p. 87. ISBN 0-415-94676-X.
- "200 Attend Funeral of Allyn King, Here". The New York Times. 1930-04-02. p. 22.