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) Alan Crosland
(m.1925–1930; divorced)
James Walter Kays
(m. ?-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. Rather she 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 17. 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.


Her first marriage was to actor/director Alan Crosland from 1925 until their 1930 divorce. They both shared the same fate: death in a car accident, his in 1936, hers in 1948.

Hammerstein's second marriage was to James W. Kays until they died together in a car accident. He was a noted Los Angeles insurance broker. Kays was a former finance director of the Democratic Party in southern California and a former city fire commissioner. In the same year, she made her last film appearance in the drama Ladies of Leisure (no relation to the Frank Capra film made in 1930 with Barbara Stanwyck).


She shared the same fate as her first ex-husband, Alan Crosland who died in a car crash in 1936, at the age of 41: Elaine and her second husband James W. Kays were killed in an automobile collision twelve miles south of the Mexican border town of Tijuana, in August of the year 1948. They were returning from Playas de Rosarito in Baja California. The Kays left Los Angeles a few days before on a trip to Tijuana. The crash claimed three more victims. One was Richard Garvey Jr., son of a pioneer southern California family and a retired real estate operator and lawyer. Garvey was thought by officers to have been driving the car. The auto rounded a curve on a hill near the hamlet of La Goria. It struck a car containing six Mexican citizens. None of the Mexicans were killed.

Elaine Hammerstein was 51 years old and her husband was 66. She was interred at Calvary Cemetery in Los Angeles, California.

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.[1]

  • 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)


  • 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

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