Kay Johnson

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Kay Johnson
KayJohnsonImageIDTH-24383NYPL for the performing arts BillyRoseTheaterDivision.jpg
Born Catherine Townsend Johnson
(1904-11-29)November 29, 1904
Mount Vernon, New York, U.S.
Died November 17, 1975(1975-11-17) (aged 70)
Waterford, Connecticut, U.S.
Occupation Actress
Years active 1929–1954
Spouse(s) John Cromwell (1928–1946)

Catherine Townsend "Kay" Johnson (November 29, 1904 – November 17, 1975) was an American actress who performed on the stage and in Hollywood films.[citation needed]

Family[edit]

Catherine Townsend Johnson[1] was born in Mount Vernon, New York in 1904. Her father was architect Thomas R. Johnson, who worked in the firm of Cass Gilbert, the architect of several noteworthy buildings in New York City, including the Woolworth Building, the New York Customs House, and many library buildings. Kay, as she was known, resolved to become an actress after leaving boarding school in Ohio. Her mother reluctantly permitted her to take a course at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts.

Stock actress[edit]

Her first leading role was in a play called Beggar on Horseback, and her first stage work of note was in the production of Karel Čapek's play R.U.R. in Chicago. She moved to California after appearing in The Little Accident in Providence, Rhode Island. She was accompanied by her soon to-be-husband John Cromwell who worked as a director in Hollywood. They wed in October 1928.

Film career[edit]

Kay Johnson was signed to a contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer by Cecil B. DeMille following a performance of the The Silver Cord at the Repertory Theater in Los Angeles, California. The play was produced by Simeon Gest of the Figueroa Playhouse. Her film debut came in Dynamite (1929), written by Jeanie Macpherson and featuring Charles Bickford and Conrad Nagel. Production was delayed while Johnson recovered from an appendectomy.

She went on to appear in The Ship From Shanghai (1930), This Mad World (1930), Billy the Kid (1930), The Spoilers (1930) with Gary Cooper and Betty Compson, DeMille's Madame Satan (1930), Passion Flower (1930), Capra's American Madness (1932), Thirteen Women (1932), Of Human Bondage (which starred Leslie Howard and Bette Davis), Jalna (1935) and Mr. Lucky (1943). Johnson was cast opposite Warner Baxter in a screen adaptation of Such Men Are Dangerous by Elinor Glyn. The story was adapted to the screen by Fox Film.

Johnson's film career continued until 1954 when her final appearance came in the British film Jivaro (also known as Lost Treasure of the Amazon).

Personal life[edit]

Johnson was married to John Cromwell, an American film actor, director and producer, from 1928 until their divorce in 1946. They had two sons, one of whom is actor James Cromwell.

Kay Johnson died from undisclosed causes at the age of 70 in Waterford, Connecticut.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Associated Press news release, 10 July 1946, Couple, Wed 18 Years, in Divorce Suit
  • Los Angeles Times, "Demille Features Child Actor", January 17, 1929, Page A10.
  • Los Angeles Times, "Kay Johnson Under Knife", March 3, 1929, Page C15.
  • Los Angeles Times, "Kay Johnson Continues", May 30, 1929, Page A6.
  • Los Angeles Times, "Kay Johnson, as Genteel Heroine of Cecil B. DeMille, Plays First Screen Role", July 21, 1929, Page B13.

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