Cara Williams

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Cara Williams
Cara Williams.JPG
Williams in 1960
Bernice Kamiat

(1925-06-29) June 29, 1925 (age 96)
Other namesBernice Kay
OccupationActress, interior designer
Years active1941–1978
Alan Gray
(m. 1945; div. 1947)

(m. 1952; div. 1959)

Asher Dann
(m. 1964; died 2018)
Children2, including John Blyth Barrymore

Cara Williams (born Bernice Kamiat; June 29, 1925) is an American film and television actress. She is best known for her role as "Billy's Mother" in The Defiant Ones (1958), for which she was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, and for her role as Gladys Porter on the 1960–62 CBS television series Pete and Gladys, for which she was nominated for the Emmy Award for Best Lead Actress in a Comedy.[1] Williams is one of the last surviving actors from the Golden Age of Hollywood.

Personal life[edit]

Cara Williams was born Bernice Kamiat in Flatbush, Brooklyn, the daughter of New York-born Florence "Flora" (née Schwartz 1897–1990), whose parents were Romanian Jewish immigrants, and Benjamin Irving Kamiat (1865–1957), a Jewish immigrant born in Lemberg, Austrian Empire. Benny Kamiat was a well-known figure in Brooklyn and a journalist for the Brooklyn Eagle. Her mother worked as a manicurist next to Brooklyn's Albee Theatre, where she would leave her daughter Bernice with the theatre owners to babysit.[citation needed]

Young Bernice began making impersonations of all the screen stars she watched in the movies there, and knew she wanted to be an actress. Her parents divorced, and her mother relocated her to Los Angeles, where she chose Cara Williams as her stage name and attended the Hollywood Professional School. Soon, she began performing in radio and at the age of 16 in 1941, she was signed to a film contract and began performing in bit roles, credited as Bernice Kay.[2]

Williams married Alan Gray in 1945; they had a daughter, Cathy Gray, but the marriage ended after two years.[3] Williams then married John Drew Barrymore, the father of Drew Barrymore, in 1952.[4] The marriage was troubled and they divorced in 1959. Their son, John Blyth Barrymore, is a former actor. She was wed to her third husband, Los Angeles real estate entrepreneur Asher Dann, until his death in 2018, aged 83.[2][5][6]

Film and television[edit]

Harry Morgan and Williams on set of Pete and Gladys

Williams's first credited role was in the 1941 western Wide Open Town. She followed this with the dramas Girls Town (1942) and Happy Land (1943) with Don Ameche. In 1944, she appeared uncredited in the Oscar-nominated musical film Sweet and Low-Down and as a secretary in the Oscar-winning film Laura directed by Otto Preminger. She also had a supporting role in the drama In the Meantime, Darling, which stars Jeanne Crain. Around this time, she took some time off, marrying her first husband, Alan Gray, in 1945 and having her daughter Cathy.

She had supporting roles in the Oscar-nominated films Boomerang (1947) directed by Elia Kazan, and (uncredited) in Sitting Pretty (1948). She next had supporting roles in The Saxon Charm (1948) which stars Susan Hayward, and Knock on Any Door (1949), which stars Humphrey Bogart.

Williams started the 1950s appearing often in television from 1950 to 1952. She played supporting roles in the musicals The Girl Next Door and The Great Diamond Robbery. She also appeared in Monte Carlo Baby, a comedy with Audrey Hepburn. Williams took time off during this period in which she was married to John Drew Barrymore and gave birth to their son, John Blyth Barrymore, in 1954.

In 1956, Williams appeared in the Oscar-nominated film Meet Me in Las Vegas, in which she performs the song "I Refuse to Rock n Roll". In 1957, she played a supporting role in The Helen Morgan Story, which stars Ann Blyth and Paul Newman. In 1958, she was cast as Billy's mother in The Defiant Ones, which was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture and for which she was nominated for the Golden Globe and Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. In 1959, she appeared in Never Steal Anything Small, a musical comedy with James Cagney. Williams also co-starred with Danny Kaye in the 1963 comedy film The Man from the Diner's Club.

Williams appeared in four episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents: "Decoy" (1956), "De Mortuis" (1956), "Last Request" (1957), and "The Cure" (1960). From 1960 to 1962, she starred in the CBS television comedy series Pete and Gladys, with Harry Morgan as Pete. The series was a spin-off of the CBS comedy December Bride, in which Morgan appeared from 1954 to 1959 as Pete Porter. Gladys, his wife, was referred to throughout the entire run of that series but never shown. Williams brought the character to life with Morgan retaining his role as her husband. Williams was nominated for the Emmy Award for Best Lead Actress in a Comedy. For the next two years, while still under contract to the network, CBS kept her in the public eye by repeating Pete and Gladys episodes as part of its morning line-up, an unusual move for a short-run series.[citation needed] CBS returned Williams to prime time in 1964 in her own series, The Cara Williams Show, in which she and Frank Aletter portrayed a married couple who had to keep their marriage secret from their employer. It lasted only one season.[7]

During the 1970s, Williams's acting appearances became less frequent. In 1971 she had a supporting role in the film Doctors' Wives.[citation needed] She also guest-starred in three episodes of Rhoda in 1975, in the role of Mae.[7]:891-892

Her last television performance was in a 1977 episode of Visions. Her last film role came in 1978 with The One Man Jury.


After retiring from acting, Williams began a career as an interior designer. She resides in Los Angeles and was married to real estate entrepreneur (and one time actor) Asher Dann, her third husband, until his death in 2018.



Year Title Role Notes
1941 Wide Open Town Joan Stuart
1942 Girls' Town Ethel
1943 Happy Land Gretchen Barry
1944 In the Meantime, Darling Ruby Mae Sayre
1945 The Spider Wanda Vann
1947 Boomerang! Irene Nelson
1948 The Saxon Charm Dolly Humber
1949 Knock on Any Door Nelly Watkins
1953 The Girl Next Door Rosie Green
1953 We Go to Monte Carlo Marinette
1954 The Great Diamond Robbery Maggie Drumman
1956 Meet Me in Las Vegas Kelly Donavan
1957 The Helen Morgan Story Dolly Evans
1958 The Defiant Ones Billy's Mother
1959 Never Steal Anything Small Winnipeg Simmons
1963 The Man from the Diners' Club Sugar Pye
1971 Doctors' Wives Maggie Gray
1977 The White Buffalo Cassie Ollinger
1978 The One Man Jury Nancy


Year Title Role Notes
1949 Theatre of Romance Episode: "The Afternoon of a Faun"
1950 The Clock Episode: "The Hypnotist"
1950 Repertory Theatre Episode: "The End Is Known"
1950 The Chevrolet Tele-Theatre Episode: "The Sun"
1950 The Web Episode: "The Twelfth Juror"
1950 Starlight Theatre Episode: "The Great Nonentity"
1950 The Billy Rose Show Episode: "Drink to Me Only with Thine Ice"
1950 Suspense Betty Marshall / Babe / Myra Wilson / Nellie Episodes: "1000 to One", "I'm No Hero", "A Pocketful of Murder", "The Mallet"
1951 Robert Montgomery Presents Episode: "Quicksand"
1951 Armstrong Circle Theatre Episode: "The Lost and Found"
1952 Broadway Television Theatre Aggie Lynch Episode: "Within the Law"
1952 Steve Randall Episode: "The Perfect Alibi"
1955 NBC Matinee Theater Episode: "Beyond a Reasonable Doubt"
1956 Lux Video Theatre Paula Episode: "The Glass Web"
1956–1957 Alfred Hitchcock Presents Mona Cameron / Irene Rankin / Mona Carstairs Episodes: "Decoy", "De Mortuis", "Last Request"
1957 Fireside Theatre Dorothy Episode: "Harbor Patrol"
1957 Date with the Angels Diane Episode: "Diane"
1959 Naked City Lois Heller Episode: "A Wood of Thorne"
1960 Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse Midge Rospond Episode: "Meeting at Appalachia"
1960 Alfred Hitchcock Presents Marie Jensen Episode: "The Cure"
1960 Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theater Irene West Episode: "Seed of Evil"
1960–1962 Pete and Gladys Gladys Porter Main role
1961 The Red Skelton Show Clara Appleby / Raggedy Ann Episodes: "Appleby's Remote", "Freddie and the Yuletide Doll"
1964 Valentine's Day Susie Peters Episode: "Teahouse of the Bankrupt Moon"
1964–1965 The Cara Williams Show Cara Bridges / Cara Wilton Lead role (30 episodes)
1974–1975 Rhoda Mae Episodes: "I'm a Little Late, Folks", "Guess What I Got You for the Holidays", "Whattaya Think It's There For?"
1976 The Ashes of Mrs. Reasoner Sylvia Reasoner TV film
1976 Medical Center Sheila Ruskin Episode: "The Happy State of Depression"
1977 Visions Anna III Episode: "The Prison Game"
1982 In Security Doris Gleen TV film

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Johnson, Erskine (1960). "Television Comes as Heady Dish for Cara Williams", Ocala Star-Banner (Ocala, Florida), December 7, 1960; retrieved October 27, 2017.
  2. ^ a b Dolowicz, Caz (2009). "Cara Williams: A Brooklyn Sex Bomb Remembered", Who Walk In Brooklyn, December 31, 2009; retrieved October 27, 2017.
  3. ^ "‘Why? Because we love you'",, April 11, 2013; retrieved October 27, 2017.
  4. ^ "Barrymore in Surprise Elopement". Pasadena Independent. December 24, 1952. Retrieved June 10, 2021.
  5. ^ "Tv's new Lucy?". The Milwaukee Sentinel. September 25, 1960. Retrieved March 9, 2014.
  6. ^ "Interview with Actor John Blyth Barrymore", The Arts and Entertainment Magazine, November 2017, issue number 76; retrieved October 27, 2017.
  7. ^ a b Terrace, Vincent (2011). Encyclopedia of Television Shows, 1925 through 2010 (2nd ed.). Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers. p. 163. ISBN 978-0-7864-6477-7.

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