Elaine Hammerstein

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Elaine Hammerstein
Elaine Hammerstein, 1921
Born (1897-06-16)June 16, 1897
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Died August 13, 1948(1948-08-13) (aged 51)
Tijuana, Mexico
Cause of death
Car accident
Spouse(s) James Walter Kays
(m. 1926–1948; their deaths)

Elaine Hammerstein (June 16, 1897 – August 13, 1948) was an American silent film and stage actress.

Musical lineage[edit]

She was the daughter of opera producer Arthur Hammerstein and the granddaughter of Oscar Hammerstein. Her father once remarked he was more interested in his daughter's career than in his own. Hammerstein was Arthur's daughter by his first marriage, to Jean Allison Hammerstein. When the couple divorced, the mother did not ask for permanent custody of Elaine but instead requested that her daughter be allowed to choose for herself when she reached the age of maturity.


Hammerstein is frequently reported to have graduated from Bryn Mawr College in 1913, at the age of seventeen. In fact, there is no record in the College's Archives of her having ever attended the school. In any case, she appeared in her first Broadway production that year. This was a musical entitled High Jinks, which featured actor Snitz Edwards. After school she was given a position in production work by her father. In 1915 she performed on Broadway a second time, in the The Trap. In the drama she acted opposite actor Holbrook Blinn.


From this work Hammerstein went into motion pictures. She appeared in forty-four movies from 1915 until 1926. Among her film credits are The Girl From Nowhere (1921), The Drums of Jeopardy (1923), Reckless Youth (1922), Broadway Gold (1923), and The Midnight Express (1924), opposite William Haines. With the latter film, the studio tried to promote Hammerstein and Haines as a couple, however, in real life, Haines was a gay man.


Hammerstein wed James Walter Kays in Los Angeles, California, on June 10, 1926.[1] Kays was a Los Angeles fire commissioner[1] and had also served as finance director for the California Democratic Party.[2]

Upon her marriage, Hammerstein retired from acting.[2] Her last film appearance is in the Columbia Pictures drama Ladies of Leisure (1926).


In August 1948, while returning from a trip to the Mexican border town of Tijuana, the Kays and three friends were traveling at high speed up a curving hillside road when they struck an oncoming car. The six occupants of the Mexican vehicle all survived with minor injuries, but Hammerstein and her companions were trapped when their car skidded off the embankment and tumbled down the hill. Hammerstein, Kays, and their three passengers – Los Angeles residents Jane Shafer Richards, Gladys Goldie Hall, and Richard Garvey Jr. – were all killed.[2][3]

At her death Elaine Hammerstein Kays was 51 years old and her husband was 66. They are interred at Calvary Cemetery in East Los Angeles.

Selected filmography[edit]

Fewer than half of Elaine Hammerstein's films remain to be seen in the twenty-first century. This list identifies films that survive, in whole or in part.[4]

Publicity still, 1919
  • The Moonstone (World Film Corp., 1915)
  • Beatrice Fairfax (serial, International Film Service, 1916; incomplete)
  • The Co-respondent (Universal Pictures, 1917; fragment)
  • The Accidental Honeymoon (Warwick-Rapf, 1918; Library of Congress)
  • Her Man (Pathé, 1918; UCLA Film & Television Archive)
  • The Pleasure Seekers (Selznick Pictures, 1920; Lost)
  • The Woman Game (Selznick Pictures, 1920)
  • The Way of a Maid (Selznick Pictures, 1921; Library of Congress)
  • One Week of Love (Selznick Pictures, 1922)
  • The Drums of Jeopardy (Truart Pictures, 1923; Library of Congress)
  • One Glorious Night (Columbia Pictures, 1924; Cinémathèque Royale, Bruxelles)
  • S.O.S. Perils of the Sea (Columbia Pictures, 1925; Library of Congress)
  • The Unwritten Law (Columbia Pictures, 1925; Library of Congress)
  • Paint and Powder (Chadwick Pictures,1925; Library of Congress)
  • Parisian Nights (FBO, 1925; fragment)
  • The Checkered Flag (Banner Productions, 1926; incomplete)
  • Ladies of Leisure (1926; Library of Congress)


  1. ^ a b "Only Members of Immediate Family at Wedding Ceremony". The Times (San Mateo, CA). UP. June 10, 1926. Retrieved August 27, 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c "Five Prominent L.A. Residents Killed in Crash". The San Bernardino County Sun (San Bernardino, CA). August 15, 1948. Retrieved August 27, 2014. 
  3. ^ "Five Killed in Crash". The Kansas City Star (Kansas City, MO). AP. August 14, 1948. Retrieved August 27, 2014. 
  4. ^ Nitrateville Thread, "Paint and Powder (1925)"
  • Indianapolis Star, 'I Couldn't Think of Promising to Stay Married!', The Sunday Star Magazine Section, September 10, 1922, page 77
  • The New York Times, 'Auto Crash Kills Pioneer Film Star', August 15, 1948, page 30

External links[edit]