Paul Kelly (actor)

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Paul Kelly
Kelly in The High and the Mighty (1954)
Born Paul Michael Kelly
(1899-08-09)August 9, 1899
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
Died November 6, 1956(1956-11-06) (aged 57)
Beverly Hills, California, U.S.
Resting place Holy Cross Cemetery, Culver City, California, U.S.
Occupation Actor
Years active 1906–1956
Spouse(s) Claire Owen (1941-1956; his death)
Dorothy Mackaye (1931-1940; her death)

Paul Michael Kelly (August 9, 1899 – November 6, 1956) was an American stage, film and television actor. His career survived a manslaughter conviction, tied to a sex scandal, that caused him to spend time in prison in the late 1920s.

Child actor[edit]

Born in Brooklyn, New York to a Roman Catholic family of Irish descent, Paul Michael Kelly was the ninth of ten children. His father owned a saloon, Kelly's Kafe, in the shadow of Vitagraph Studios, on E. 14th St. in Midwood, Brooklyn. After his father's death, he began his career as a child actor at age 7 and was appearing on the stage. In 1911, Kelly began making silent films at age 12 with the Vitagraph Studios, which was based in Brooklyn, and where he was billed as Master Paul Kelly. Kelly was possibly the first male child actor to be given any starring roles in American films, predating better remembered child stars such as Bobby Connelly and Jackie Coogan.[1]

Kelly made his talking film debut in 1933's Broadway Through a Keyhole. In the course of his career, and relatively short life, it has been estimated that Kelly worked on stage, screen, and television in over four hundred roles.[2] Later in his film career, as an adult, Kelly appeared in films mostly as a character actor playing tough guys — some sympathetic, some not — during the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s.[1]

Mary Miles Minter (playing Anne Shirley) snuggles with Paul Kelly (Gilbert Blythe) in a scene still for the 1919 silent film Anne of Green Gables
Paul Kelly (1937), in Fit for a King


Kelly alternated between stage and screen as an actor. He was a handsome and popular male lead or costar in Broadway plays from the late 1910s and throughout the 1920s. In 1948, Kelly won a Best Actor Tony Award for his role in Command Decision. Clark Gable later played the same role in the film version of the play. Kelly shared the award with Henry Fonda for Mister Roberts and Basil Rathbone for The Heiress.[2]

Personal life[edit]

He served 25 months for manslaughter at San Quentin prison for the death of actor Ray Raymond, a few days after the men had a physical confrontation. On April 16, 1927, a drunk Kelly confronted a drunk Raymond over Kelly's affair with and love for Raymond's wife, Dorothy Mackaye. Raymond was no match for Kelly, who bashed Raymond's head against a wall until he fell unconscious. The incident was witnessed by Raymond's daughter, Valerie, and the maid. Mackaye arrived home to tuck her groggy husband into bed. The next morning, Mackaye called a friend, Dr. Walter Sullivan, who sat at Raymond's bed while she visited Kelly. Raymond lingered for two days then succumbed to a brain hemorrhage. At his trial, Kelly contended that Raymond had started the fight and did not show signs of serious injury at the time. He showed no remorse.[2] Years later, Kelly played the part of San Quentin Warden Clinton Duffy in Duffy of San Quentin.[1]

Mackaye had denied claims in court that she had been romantically involved with Kelly before Raymond's death, but Kelly's love letters to her were introduced as evidence. She was not charged with perjury but with felony conspiracy for the attempted coverup, and sentenced to one to three years but served less than 10 months. Kelly was sentenced to up to 10 years but served only 25 months. Kelly and Mackaye married in 1931 and were back on Broadway. Then they returned to California, where Valerie Raymond was apparently adopted by her stepfather and became known as Mimi Kelly. Mimi would later have her own modest Broadway career.[2]

Dorothy Mackaye's written account of her experiences, Women in Prison, became a film, Ladies They Talk About (1933), with Barbara Stanwyck, and remade again as Lady Gangster in 1942. Mackaye died in a 1940 auto crash. In 1941, Kelly married Claire Owen (born Zona Mardelle Zwicker), a bit player he had met on the set of Flight Command (1940). She retired from acting, and went on to survive him.[1]


Kelly died of a heart attack at 57 on November 6, 1956.[1]

Partial filmography[edit]

Year Film Role Notes
1919 Anne of Green Gables Gilbert Blythe
1927 Slide, Kelly, Slide Dillon
Special Delivery Tuck, another detective Scenes deleted
1933 Broadway Through a Keyhole Frank Rocci
1934 Death on the Diamond Jimmie Downey
Side Streets Tim
1935 Star of Midnight Jim Kinland
Public Hero No. 1 Duff
1936 Murder with Pictures I. B. McCoogin
1937 Fit for a King Briggs
Navy Blue and Gold Tommy Milton (varsity coach)
1938 The Devil's Party Jerry Donovan
Island in the Sky Johnny Doyle
Juvenile Court Gary Franklin Leading role opposite Rita Hayworth
Adventure in Sahara Jim Wilson Starring role
1939 Within the Law Joe Garson
The Flying Irishman Butch Brannan
6,000 Enemies Dr. Malcolm Scott
The Roaring Twenties Nick Brown
Invisible Stripes Ed Kruger
1940 Wyoming General Custer
The Howards of Virginia Captain Jabez Allen Alternative title: The Tree of Liberty
Flight Command Lieutenant Commander "Dusty" Rhodes
1941 Ziegfeld Girl John Slayton
Parachute Battalion Sgt. Tex McBride
1942 Mr. and Mrs. North Lieutenant Weigand
Tarzan's New York Adventure Jimmy Shields
The Secret Code Dan Barton 15-chapter serial; leading role
Flying Tigers Hap Smith
1944 The Story of Dr. Wassell Murdock
Dead Man's Eyes Dr. Alan Bittaker
1945 China's Little Devils Big Butch Dooley
Allotment Wives Major Pete Martin
San Antonio Roy Stuart
1947 Fear in the Night Cliff Herlihy
Crossfire The Man
Adventure Island Captain Donald Lochlin
1950 The File on Thelma Jordon Miles Scott
Guilty of Treason Tom Kelly
Side Street Captain Walter Anderson
The Secret Fury District Attorney Eric Lowell
Frenchie Lambert
1951 The Painted Hills Jonathan Harvey Alternative titles: Lassie's Adventures in the Goldrush, Lassie's Christmas Story
1952 Springfield Rifle Lieutenant Colonel John Hudson
1953 Gunsmoke Dan Saxon Alternative titles: A Man's Country, Roughshod
Split Second Bart Moore
1954 The High and the Mighty Donald Flaherty
Johnny Dark William H. "Scotty" Scott
1955 The Square Jungle Jim McBride
1956 Storm Center Judge Robert Ellerbe
1957 Bailout at 43,000 Colonel Hughes last film role
Year Title Role Notes
1950 The Ford Theatre Hour 1 episode
1952 Robert Montgomery Presents 1 episode
1954–1955 Fireside Theater 2 episodes
Schlitz Playhouse of Stars 3 episodes
1955 Cavalcade of America 1 episode


  1. ^ a b c d e Paul Kelly at the Internet Movie Database
  2. ^ a b c d Profile,; accessed July 28, 2015.

External links[edit]