Katherine MacDonald

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Katherine MacDonald
Katherine MacDonald by Evans L.A.jpg
MacDonald, c. 1922
Katherine Agnew MacDonald

(1891-12-14)December 14, 1891
DiedJune 4, 1956(1956-06-04) (aged 64)
Occupation(s)Actress, film producer, model
Spouse(s)Malcolm A. Strauss[1]
(m. 1911; div. 1919)
Charles Schoen Johnson
(m. 1923; div. 1926); 1 son
Christian R. Holmes
(m. 1928; div. 1931); 1 daughter
RelativesMary MacLaren (sister, actress)
Miriam MacDonald (sister, actress)
AwardsHollywood Walk of Fame

Katherine Agnew MacDonald (December 14, 1891[2][3]–June 4, 1956) was an American stage and film actress, film producer, and model. She was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and was the older sister of actresses Miriam MacDonald and Mary MacLaren.


Starting her career as a popular model in New York City in the 1910s, MacDonald moved to Los Angeles in 1917. She became one of the first women to produce films in Hollywood, and produced nine features for her company, Katherine MacDonald Pictures, from 1919 to 1921.[4]

MacDonald was among the top ranks of actresses financially in 1920, earning about $50,000 per picture from a contract with First National. She achieved the peak of her popularity between 1920 and 1923. From 1922 to 1925 she appeared in films produced by B. P. Schulberg.[citation needed]

She was considered a minor talent in the film industry, but her curvaceous figure nevertheless resulted in the nickname given her of the "American Beauty".[5]

Her first significant role was her lead role in Shark Monroe (1918) opposite William S. Hart.[6] She was featured in a number of silent films, including The Squaw Man (1918), Mr. Fix-It (1918), Passion's Playground (1920) and The Infidel (1922). Her films typically were romantic dramas. MacDonald made only two pictures after 1923, one each in 1925 and 1926.

Personal life[edit]

MacDonald had a public feud with her sister[citation needed], fellow actress Mary MacLaren, nine years her junior.

While working as a model in New York City, Katherine met her first husband, the well-known artist and writer Malcolm Atherton Strauss. They married in New York in June 1911, but the union ended after eight years.[7] In its May 17, 1919 issue, the New York-based trade journal Motion Picture World tersely announces, "Katherine MacDonald Strauss has been granted a decree of divorce by Judge Crail, of Los Angeles, from Malcolm A. Strauss, New York artist."[8] Four years later in Atlantic City, New Jersey, she married Charles Schoen Johnson, a young Chicago millionaire. That marriage also ended in divorce in 1926 but produced one son, Britt. [9]

After retiring from the movie industry MacDonald ran a successful cosmetics business in the late 1920s and early 1930s.[5] In 1928 she married Christian Rasmus Holmes (1898-1944), an heir to the Fleischmann's yeast company, but that marriage ended in a sensational divorce suit in 1931, one widely covered in the press.[10] MacDonald claimed cruelty, alleging that her husband had fired a revolver at her through a locked door, had deliberately burnt her with lit cigarettes, and had sometimes locked her in a cage. Holmes counter-sued, claiming that MacDonald had embarrassed him by having affairs. MacDonald and Holmes had one daughter, Ann.[10][5]

Her statistics list her height as 5 ft 8 in (173 cm) with a weight of 130 pounds (59 kg), with brown hair and blue eyes. She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6777 Hollywood Boulevard.


MacDonald later in life suffered from diabetes, which in 1954 finally required the amputation of her right leg.[1] Two years later, after a series of debilitating strokes, she died at St. Francis Hospital in Santa Barbara, California.[1][11] She is buried in the Santa Barbara Cemetery in California.


MacDonald on the cover of the Motion Picture Classic, July 23, 1921. Cover art by Benjamin Eggleston (1867-1937).[12]
Another portrait of MacDonald featured in the January 1922 issue of Filmplay Journal


  1. ^ a b c "'American Beauty' of Silent Film Fame Dies", Los Angeles Times, June 5, 1956, p. A1. ProQuest Historical Newspapers (Ann Arbor, Michigan); subscription access through The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Library.
  2. ^ The Ultimate Directory of the Silent Screen Performers: A Necrology of Births and Deaths and Essays on 50 Lost Players; edited by Anthony Slide, Scarecrow Press, c.1995
  3. ^ The Ultimate Directory of Film Technicians; A Necrology of Dates and Places of Births and Deaths of More than 9,000 Producers, Screenwriters, Composers, Cinematographers, Art Directors, Costume Designers, Choreographers, Executives and Publicists; Scarecrow Press, 1999
  4. ^ "Katherine MacDonald". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 15, 2020.
  5. ^ a b c Larry Lee Holland, "Mary MacLaren and Katherine MacDonald" Films in Review (1985), pp. 221-27
  6. ^ "Shark Monroe. 1918. Directed by William S. Hart | MoMA". The Museum of Modern Art. Retrieved July 15, 2020.
  7. ^ "Malcolm Strauss, Writer, Artist, Dies", The New York Times, April 11, 1936, p. 15. ProQuest Historical Newspapers.
  8. ^ "Studio Shots", Motion Picture World (New York, N.Y.), May 17, 1919, p. 1026. Internet Archive. Retrieved November 13, 2020.
  9. ^ "Milestones". Time. I (14): 27. June 4, 1923. Retrieved August 23, 2020.
  10. ^ a b "Millionaire Divorced by Ex-Actress: Katherine MacDonald of Screen Wins Suit Against Christian Holmes", Los Angeles Times, July 26, 1931, p. 1. ProQuest.
  11. ^ Katchmer, George A. (May 20, 2015). A Biographical Dictionary of Silent Film Western Actors and Actresses. McFarland. pp. 223–224. ISBN 978-1-4766-0905-8. Retrieved August 23, 2020.
  12. ^ Platnick, Norman I. (February 2017). Lady of Mystery: A Collector's Guide to Edward Eggleston version 3.5. p. 5. those Motion Picture Classic covers, published from at least July, 1921 through August, 1922, were actually done by Benjamin Eggleston...(PDF version book released by Platnick's son). {{cite book}}: External link in |quote= (help)

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