publicity photo (1934)
December 12, 1909
Ottumwa, Iowa, U.S.
|Died||March 8, 2003
Woodland Hills, Los Angeles, California, U.S.
(m. 1932; div. 1943)
(m. 1943; his death 1984)
Karen Morley (December 12, 1909 – March 8, 2003) was an American film actress.
Life and career
After working at the Pasadena Playhouse, she came to the attention of the director Clarence Brown, at a time when he had been looking for an actress to stand-in for Greta Garbo in screen tests. This led to a contract with MGM and roles in such films as Mata Hari (1931), Scarface (1932), The Phantom of Crestwood (1932), The Mask of Fu Manchu (1932), Arsene Lupin (1933), Gabriel Over the White House (1933) and Dinner at Eight (1933).
In 1934, Morley left MGM after arguments about her roles and her private life. Her first film after leaving the studio was Our Daily Bread (1934), directed by King Vidor. She continued to work as a freelance performer, and appeared in Michael Curtiz's Black Fury, and The Littlest Rebel with Shirley Temple. Without the support of a studio, her roles became less frequent, however she did play Mr. Collins' wife Charlotte Lucas in Pride and Prejudice (1940), which was produced by MGM. The film was critically well-received, but it did not advance her career, as a result, Morley turned her attention to stage plays.
Her career came to an end in 1947, when she testified before the House Un-American Activities Committee and refused to answer questions about her alleged American Communist Party membership. She maintained her political activism for the rest of her life. In 1954, she ran unsuccessfully for Lieutenant Governor of New York on the American Labor Party ticket.
After being blacklisted in Hollywood by the studio bosses, she was never able to rebuild her acting career.
In 1993, she appeared in The Great Depression, a documentary TV series produced by Henry Hampton's Blackside Productions in association with BBC2 and WGBH. In the series, she talked about how helpless she felt as a privileged Hollywood actress in the face of all the poverty and suffering that surrounded her. She also spoke of her experience making Our Daily Bread and working for King Vidor, whom she described as a conservative who thought that people should willingly help each other without government interference.
In December 1999, at the age of 90, she appeared in the magazine Vanity Fair in an article about blacklist survivors.
Morley was married to director Charles Vidor from 1932 until 1943. They met on the set of Man About Town, in which Morley played the female lead, and Vidor was co-director. Vidor and Morley had a son, Michael Karoly, who was born in August 1933. Morley and Vidor were divorced in 1943, and later that year, she married the actor Lloyd Gough. They had one child together. They were married until Gough's death in 1984.
Morley lived in Santa Monica, California, during her later years. She died from pneumonia in Woodland Hills, California, at the age of 93, and was survived by two grandsons, a great-grandson, and a great-granddaughter.
- Inspiration (1931)
- Never The Twain Shall Meet (1931)
- The Sin of Madelon Claudet (1931)
- High Stakes (1931)
- Scarface (1932)
- The Mask of Fu Manchu (1932)
- The Phantom of Crestwood (1932)
- Dinner at Eight (1933)
- Gabriel Over the White House (1933)
- Our Daily Bread (1934)
- Wednesday's Child (1934)
- Black Fury (1935)
- The Littlest Rebel (1936)
- Outcast (1937)
- The Girl from Scotland Yard (1937)
- Pride and Prejudice (1940)
- Jealousy (1945)
- The Unknown (1946)
- Framed (1947)
- The Gettysburg Times, Discovered, November 3, 1932, Page 7.
- Los Angeles Times, Karen Morley, 93, A Movie Star Until a Congressional Hearing, April 27, 2003, Page N47.
- McGilligan, Patrick and Paul Buhle (1997). Tender Comrades: A Backstory of the Hollywood Blacklist. St. Martin's Press. ISBN 0-312-17046-7.
- Oakland Tribune, One Star's Family, September 9, 1935, Page 68.
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