Kay Aldridge, c. 1940s
|Born||Katharine Gratten Aldridge
July 9, 1917
Tallahassee, Florida, USA
|Died||January 12, 1995
Rockport, Maine, USA
|Cause of death||Heart attack|
Kay Aldridge (July 9, 1917 – January 12, 1995) was an American actress and model, best known for playing feisty and imperiled heroines in black-and-white serials during the 1940s. A notable role was as Nyoka Gordon in Perils of Nyoka.
Life and work
Katharine Gratten Aldridge was born on July 9, 1917 in Tallahassee, Florida. Her father was a surveyor and her mother was an artist and writer. Following her father's death when she was two years old, her mother moved the family to Lyells, Virginia, where she and her four siblings were raised with the help of her great aunts who were schoolteachers. After attending her first year of high school in Westminster, Maryland, she enrolled in St. Mary's Female Seminary (now St. Mary's College of Maryland) in St. Mary's City, Maryland. While at St. Mary's, she acted in plays, played basketball, and was a member of the Delta Phi Epsilon sorority.
Following her high school graduation in 1934, Aldridge found work with the John Powers modeling agency in New York. She appeared on the covers of magazines such as Life, Ladies' Home Journal, Redbook, and Look. Contemporary artist Anne Taintor used advertisements featuring Aldridge as the base for a number of her pieces. In 1937, Aldridge was chosen as one of the ten most photographed girls in the world, and was selected to go to Hollywood to appear in the United Artists film Vogues of 1938.
In 1939 she signed a contract with 20th Century Fox, and in the next few years landed a number of minor and largely decorative roles, credited as Katherine Aldridge. The films she made during this period include Shooting High (1940) playing Evelyn Trent, Sailor's Lady (1940) playing Georgine, Down Argentine Way (1940) playing Helen Carson, and Dead Men Tell (1941) playing Laura Thursday. She was among the actresses screen tested for the part of Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With the Wind.
After her contract with 20th Century Fox expired in 1941, she was approach by Republic Pictures to star in an upcoming film serial. Although she considered serial work a "comedown" from being a featured player at Fox, she accepted the offer because it offered her a lead role and a salary of about $650 a week, good money at the time. Her first serial for Republic was Perils of Nyoka (1942), which offered dramatic cliffhanger scenes at the end of each episode. Now credited as Kay Aldridge, she played the character Nyoka Gordon, who confronts a host of villains while seeking her father, who was lost on an expedition in Africa. It was her most popular role. Further classic serial heroine roles followed with titles such as Daredevils of the West in 1943 and Haunted Harbor in 1944. She retired from acting in 1945.
Aldridge was married three times: to Arthur Cameron from 1945 to 1954, to Richard Derby Tucker from 1956 until his death in 1979, and lastly to Harry Nasland until his death in 1988. In her later years she lived in Camden, Maine, and was a locally renowned hostess, often sitting 10 or more people at dinner and regaling them with stories and laughter. She was exceptionally kind and gracious, often inviting travelers from downtown Camden to her home to see the spectacular view of Penobscot Bay and Curtis Island.
Aldridge died of a heart attack on January 12, 1995 in Rockport, Maine. She was survived by a daughter, Carey Cameron Ferrero; two sons, Scott and Arthur Cameron (Arthur now deceased); a stepdaughter, Minnie Tucker Biggs, and two stepsons, Richard and Samuel Tucker. Aldridge's oldest daughter, Melissa Brumder of New York, died just before her. She is interred at Sea View Cemetery in Rockport, Maine.
- Vogues of 1938 (1937), Katherine (uncredited)
- Rosalie (1937), Lady in Waiting (uncredited)
- Hotel for Women (1939), Melinda Craig
- Here I Am a Stranger (1939), Lillian Bennett
- Free, Blonde and 21 (1940), Adelaide Sinclair
- Shooting High (1940), Evelyn Trent
- Girl in 313 (1940), Sarah Sorrell
- Sailor's Lady (1940), Georgine
- Girl from Avenue A (1940), Lucy
- Yesterday's Heroes (1940), Janice Mason
- Down Argentine Way (1940), Helen Carson
- Golden Hoofs (1941), Cornelia Hunt
- Dead Men Tell (1941), Laura Thursday
- Navy Blues (1941), Navy Blues Sextette Member
- The Playgirls (1941, short), Sextette Member (uncredited)
- You're in the Army Now (1941), Navy Blues Sextette Member
- Louisiana Purchase (1941), Louisiana Belle
- Perils of Nyoka (1942), Nyoka Gordon
- The Falcon's Brother (1942), Victory Gown Model (uncredited)
- Something to Shout About (1943), Show Girl (uncredited)
- Daredevils of the West (1943), June Foster
- DuBarry Was a Lady (1943), Mrs. McGowan (uncredited)
- Haunted Harbor (1944), Patricia Harding
- The Man Who Walked Alone (1945), Wilhelmina Hammond
- The Phantom of 42nd Street (1945), Claudia Moore
- Brennan, Sandra. "Kay Aldridge". The New York Times. Retrieved August 13, 2014.
- Magars, Boyd. "Chapter Forty-Six: The Perils of Kay Aldridge". Western Clippings. Retrieved August 14, 2014.
- Randell, K. D. (April 28, 2014). "Kay Aldridge, Queen of the Serials and St. Mary’s Graduate". Library SMCM. Retrieved August 13, 2014.
- "Kay Aldridge, 77, Actress Until 1945". The New York Times. January 21, 1995. Retrieved August 13, 2014.
- "Kay Aldridge". Matinee Classics. Retrieved August 13, 2014.
- "Kay Aldridge Filmography". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved August 13, 2014.
- McCord, Merrill T. (1979). Perils of Kay Aldridge: Life of the Serial Queen. Washington DC: Alhambra Publishers.