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May 31, 1879|
Butte, Montana, U.S.
|Died||September 23, 1960
Hollywood, California, U.S.
|Cause of death||heart attack|
Kathlyn Williams (May 31, 1879 – September 23, 1960) was an American actress, known for her blonde beauty and daring antics, who performed on stage as well as in early silent film.
Early life and career
Kathlyn Williams was born Kathleen Mabel Williams on May 31, 1879 in Butte, Montana, and the only child born to Joseph Edwin"Frank" Williams, a boarding house proprietor, and Mary C. Boe (1846–1908) of Welsh and Norwegian descent. Many biographies state her birth year as 1888; however,she is listed on the 1880 United States Census as being a year old. Williams displayed an early interest in becoming an actress in her youth which lead her to become a member of a community thespian group. She also joined the Woman's Relief Corps that allowed her to showcase her vocal prowess at local recitals. Although she was known for having an adequate singing voice, acting became Williams' main vocation. Williams attended Montana Wesleyan University (now Rocky Mountain College) in Helena during the late 1890s and graduated in 1901, where she excelled in elocution and voice, and her performances were highly praised. In May 1899, she recited "The Gypsy Flower Girl" at her university's annual competition. On May 29, 1900, Williams received a gold medal for her recitation of "Old Mother Goose" at Wesleyan's declamation contest. She lost her father around 1894 when she was a teenager, and her mother remarried a man by the name of Fred Lavoie in 1895. They divorced the next year.
In order to make ends meet, her mother made extra money by renting out homes in nearby Centerville. Her family was of limited means; therefore, Kathlyn had to rely on the charity of others to pay her way through school. Her acting aspiration also caught the attention of William A. Clark, a very wealthy Montana Senator, who helped finance her education and acting classes. Clark paid her tuition to the Sargent School of Acting which is more famously known as the American Academy of Dramatic Art in New York City. She was also given encouragement by Richard "Uncle Dick" Sutton, who owned several theaters in Butte, where Williams performed on stage early in her career. In 1900, her friends held a concert at Sutton's Theater for "Katie", as she was affectionately called, to gather funds to help pay her college tuition. By 1902, Williams joined a theater touring group called Norris & Hall and Company where she played the lead part of Phyllis Ericson in the popular play "When We Were Twenty One," mostly to good reviews. The play toured across the United States toward the end of 1903.
In the January 16, 1903 issue of the Dallas Morning News, an article in Amusements critiqued Williams' performance in "When We Were Twenty-One": "Miss Kathlyn Williams, who assumed the role of Phyllis, is an actress of rare ability, attractiveness, and grace of delivery".
Williams began her career with Selig Polyscope Company in Chicago, Illinois and made her first film in 1908 under the direction of Francis Boggs. By 1910, she was transferred to the company's Los Angeles film studio. Williams played "Cherry Malotte" in the first movie based upon Rex Beach's 1906 novel The Spoilers in 1914, a role portrayed in subsequent versions by Betty Compson (1930), Marlene Dietrich (1942), and Anne Baxter (1955). In 1916, she starred in the thirteen episode adventure film serial, The Adventures of Kathlyn. She was busy throughout the silent film era but age and the advent of talkies saw her make only five sound films, the last in 1935. Kathlyn evolved from a comedian and serial player in silents to portraying character roles in the early 1930s
Williams was married three times. Although many biographies erroneously cite her first husband as being Victor Kainer, he was in fact named Otto H. "Harry" Kainer (1876–1952), who ran an import and export business on Wall Street in New York City. They were wed on October 2, 1903, and their son, Victor Hugo, was born in 1905. The Kainers resided at 301 Nicholas Avenue in Manhattan. On May 8, 1905, she successfully sued her husband for $20,000 dollars for not paying her $10,000 on the day of their marriage and for every year of their marriage. The case made headlines in newspapers across the country, and made its way to the New York Supreme Court. They supposedly divorced over Kainer's disapproval of his wife having an acting career,and Williams subsequently obtained a divorce from Kainer in 1909 in Nevada. After the death of her Norwegian born mother in December 1908 and the failure of her marriage, Williams decided to revive her acting career. By 1910, Williams and her young son uprooted themselves to Los Angeles, California where she easily obtained acting jobs. On March 4, 1913, she married Frank R. Allen, also an actor, but the marriage was a failure from the start and lasted a little over a year. On June 30, 1914, she filed for divorce in Los Angeles and listed desertion as the reason as the failure of their marriage.
She later married Paramount Pictures executive Charles Eyton on June 2, 1916, in Riverside, California. The couple met approximately ten years earlier in Salt Lake City, Utah. Eyton went there to look over a new play. While there he met Kathlyn, who was a member of the Willard Mack stock company. Eyton and Williams were engaged earlier but a lover's quarrel broke them up. A second meeting in the movie camps of Los Angeles, California rekindled their love. Eyton was one of the owners of the Oliver Morosco Photoplay Company. On February 25, 1922, her beloved son, now called Victor Eyton, died suddenly at the age of 16 from complications from the influenza at Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles, and his remains were cremated. Her son was previously enrolled at Harvard Military Academy before he became a student at Hollywood High School. In order to overcome her immense grief, the Eytons took an extended trip to Asia which lasted for four months. The Eytons eventually divorced in 1931.
On December 29, 1949, Williams was involved in a deadly automobile accident, which claimed the life of her friend, Mrs. Mary E. Rose, while they were returning home from a social engagement in Las Vegas. As a result of the accident, Williams lost her right limb. On April 8, 1950, Williams sued the estate of Rose for $136,615, citing negligence and claiming that the automobile had inefficient brakes. In June 1951, Williams accepted the offer of $6,500 dollars from the Rose estate. Kathlyn Williams died of a heart attack in Hollywood, California in 1960. She was found dead in her bedroom at her 1428 North Crescent Heights apartment where she resided for nearly 30 years. Although it was widely reported that Williams became a wheelchair invalid since the loss of her leg, she still traveled and lead a productive life. She was cremated and her ashes were stored at the Chapel of the Pines Crematory in Los Angeles.
After her death, Williams bequeathed most of her monetary assets, which amounted to nearly $287,000, to charitable institutions such as The McKinley Industrial Home for Boys, the Motion Picture Relief Fund, and to an orthopedic and children's hospital. One of her last dying wishes was for a plaque to be placed at The McKinley Industrial Home for Boys to celebrate the memory of her long ago departed son.
For her contribution to the motion picture industry, Kathlyn Williams has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7038 Hollywood Blvd.
- "Kathlyn Williams". Los Angeles Times. September 25, 1960. Retrieved September 3, 2011.
- Galveston, Texas Daily News, Screen Life in Hollywood, Friday, March 20, 1931, Page 4.
- New York Times, Kathlyn Williams, September 25, 1960, Page 86.
- Reno, Nevada Evening Gazette, Short Yarns About Many Favorites, Saturday, June 17, 1916, Page 10.
- Anaconda, Montana The Anaconda Standard, "A Benefit Concert. Chance to Help a Young Girl Through College." August 16, 1900, Page 4.
- Anaconda, Montana The Anaconda Standard, "Musical Entertainment: A Delightful Programme Prepared By the Woman's Relief Corps", September 1, 1901, Page 16.
- Anaconda, Montana The Anaconda Standard, "Butte Actress Loses Young Son", March 7, 1922, Page 6.
- Danville, Virginia The Bee, "Former Actress Sues For $136,615", Saturday, April 8, 1950, Page 11.
- New York City New York Times, "Husband Must Pay Up", Tuesday, May 9, 1905, Page 2.
- 1924 passport from Ancestry.com states birth year was 1885.
- 1910 Census for Los Angeles
- Olympia, Washington Morning Olympian, "Kathlyn Wiliams Kainer", July 7, 1905, Page 2.
- Helena, Montana The Helena Independent, "For Honor and A Prize, University Students Will Take Part in Elocutionary Contest", May 29, 1899, Page 8.
- 1880 United States Federal Census, Butte City, Deer Lodge County, Montana, Enumeration District 10, Page 55, June 17, 1880.
- Anaconda, Montana The Anaconda Standard, "Sad News Shocks Daughter: Rushes To Bedside Of Aged Pioneer Woman On Learning Plight For First Time", December 12, 1908
- Trenton, New Jersey The Trenton Times, "Stage Gossip", September 15, 1902
- Waterloo, Iowa Waterloo Reporter, "Kathlyn Williams Now Mrs. Allen", Saturday, March 29, 1913, Page 19.
- Long Beach, California Independent, "Kathlyn Williams Estate Goes to Charity", October 27, 1960, Page 8.
- Lincoln, Nebraska Nebraska State Journal, "On the Silver Screen. Among the Movies.", March 26, 1922, Page 30.
- Moberly, Missouri Weekly Monitar, "Kathlyn Williams Sues for Divorce", July 3, 1914, Page 2.
- New York Supreme Court Case, Kainer vs. Kainer, #K-62 1905 LJ, May 8, 1905.
- Butte, Silver Bow County, Montana, Directory, 1902, Ancestry.com
- San Jose, California San Jose Mercury News, "Promised Bride $10,000 A Year", May 22, 1905,
- Los Angeles, California Los Angeles Times, "School Boys Bear Remains To Grave", March 1, 1922.
- Logansport, Indiana Logansport, Indiana, "Husband Failed to Pay Her For Leaving Stage", June 23, 1905, Page 5.
- Dallas, Texas Dallas Morning News, "Amusements", January 16, 1903
- Anaconda, Montana The Anaconda Standard, "Little Miss Butte Meets Success", July 13, 1902.
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