Born in Johnstone, Renfrewshire, as Katherina Valarita Veronica Murphey Gribbin [Houston was her stage name], she toured music halls and revue with her sister Billie Houston as the "Houston Sisters".
In 1926, the sisters made a short musical film, the script of which Renee had written. It was produced by Lee De Forest, whose process, Phonofilm, enabled a soundtrack to be played alongside the film (a year before The Jazz Singer).
Houston married three times, the second was to the actor Patrick Aherne, the brother of Brian Aherne. They had four children: Patrick Anthony and Alan Brian, and Teri and Trevor (both adopted). Her third husband was the actor Donald Stewart.
In her later years, she specialised in "battleaxe" roles, notably as shop steward Vic Spanner's (Kenneth Cope) formidable mother in Carry On at Your Convenience (1971). She published her autobiography in 1974 which was entitled Don't Fence Me In.
She died in London at the age of 77 on 9 February 1980.
- Blighty (1927)
- Their Night Out (1933)
- No Monkey Business (1935)
- Happy Days are Here Again (1936)
- Fine Feathers (1937)
- A Girl Must Live (1939)
- Old Bill & Son (1941)
- The Peterville Diamond (1942)
- Two Thousand Women (1944)
- Lady Godiva Rides Again (1951)
- The Belles of St Trinian's (1954)
- Track the Man Down (1955)
- A Town Like Alice (1956)
- Time Without Pity (1957)
- The Adventures of Robin Hood (1958)
- The Big Money (1958)
- The Horse's Mouth (1958)
- And the Same to You (1960)
- The Flesh and the Fiends (1960)
- No My Darling Daughter (1961)
- Twice Round the Daffodils (1962)
- The Phantom of the Opera (1962)
- Nurse on Wheels (1963)
- Carry On Cabby (1963), Molly
- Carry On Spying (1964), Madame
- Tomorrow at Ten (1964)
- Secrets of a Windmill Girl (1966)
- Carry On at Your Convenience (1971), Agatha Spanner
- Legend of the Werewolf (1975)
- Dixon of Dock Green
- Doctor in the House
- The Saint
- Special Branch
- Watch it, Sailor! (1961)