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Author Topic: Kitty Gordon - Silent Film Star (and Diva!)  (Read 6884 times)

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Re: Kitty Gordon - Silent Film Star (and Diva!)
« Reply #5 on: September 16, 2015, 22:47:15 »
Two photos of Kitty Gordon. Reproduced courtesy of Don Gillan (Copyright),


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Re: Kitty Gordon - Silent Film Star (and Diva!)
« Reply #4 on: March 07, 2010, 01:43:47 »

Thanks Merc  :)

Thanks also for adding that Paul Narramore. A very plain grave for someone so colourful in life. Probably because there was nobody left to mourn her....



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Re: Kitty Gordon - Silent Film Star (and Diva!)
« Reply #2 on: March 06, 2010, 09:02:18 »
Very interesting Glen. Well researched. :)

What an interesting life she led.


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Kitty Gordon - Silent Film Star (and Diva!)
« Reply #1 on: March 06, 2010, 00:53:14 »

I've just bought a batch of old postcards on Ebay and whilst sorting through them I came across the one above inscribed "Miss Kitty Gordon" and on the off chance thought I'd do some research to see if there was any Kent connection....

Kitty Gordon, real name Constance Minnie Blades, was born in Folkestone, Kent on the 22nd April 1878. Her father Joel was a Captain in the Royal Artillery stationed at "C" Battery in the town.

Kitty became an actress and her first professional stage performance was in 1901 at the Princes Theatre in Bristol in the popular long running musical comedy San Toy.

In 1903 Kitty married the first of her four (or possibly three?) husbands, Michael Levenston, theatre manager. Sadly the marriage was ended by the premature death of her husband less than four months later.

Kitty did not remain unattached for very long. In October 1904 she married London born actor Harry Beresford with whom she later had her only child, a daughter Vera, also to become an actress. In 1909 Kitty moved to America and became a regular performer on the New York stage in productions such as the musical "The Enchantress" written for her by Victor Herbert.

Her popularity grew in leaps and bounds and she became as famous in America as she was this side of the Atlantic both for her back, said to be "the most beautiful in the world" and her magnificent trade mark gowns "the most magnificently gowned woman on the screen".

According to a report I found in the New York Times archives, by 1911 Kitty's marriage to Beresford was in trouble. Reading between the lines, Kitty was a bit of a diva and had many male admirers.....

Christmas 1911 was supposed to be spent with her estranged husband and eight year old daughter Vera, but in the end little Vera sailed alone from England to New York to meet her mother.

Instead of attempting to reconcile her marital problems with her husband, Kitty entertained Count Maurice Fries, formerly of the Austrian Embassy in London.

When the New York Times enquired politely as to the purpose of his visit to Miss Gordon, the Count replied, somewhat theatrically, "An Enchantress can exert her influence across the sea".

In 1916, Kitty starred in her first silent film entitled "As in a Looking Glass" and during the next three years she appeared in a further twenty one films! Little heed was paid to health and safety by the early film makers.

During the shooting of a war film in 1917 at studios in Fort Lee, New Jersey, Kitty and another actress Pinna Nesbit were badly burned during a battle scene when an explosion set fire to their dresses. Kitty suffered burns to her body and face preventing her from working for several weeks. In 1920 she successfully sued for damages and was awarded $ 1400 in settlement

Kitty was to become a frequent litigant over the years, involved in numerous contractual wrangles which usually ended in her favour, on one occasion to the tune of over $ 20000 - a small fortune at the time. At some point in the early 1920's it would appear that Kitty may have married a third husband, Jack Wilson although I have not been able to confirm this for definite in my research so far.

Jack was an American vaudeville stage actor who sometimes performed as a black face artist , later a camera operator and eventually a film actor (possibly through his wife's influence and connections with the studios?). On 25th June 1920, Kitty accidentally shot another actor called Joseph Hack who was waiting in the wings, whilst performing on stage in Chicago. The revolver from which she fired the shot was supposed to only be loaded with blank cartridges....

However, the gun, apart from acting as a stage prop, was also used by her husband Jack to guard his wife's jewellery!

He told the Chicago police that he always removed the live cartridges and replaced them with blanks before each performance but had obviously overlooked one of the live ones on this occasion. Fortunately, Hack was not killed in the incident. The bullet passed through his right arm, between two ribs and emerged from his back under his shoulder blade. He later sued Wilson for damages. When questioned by detectives, Kitty said "Why really, I don't know much about it, except that I fired the revolver and it burned my hand. I dropped it. It never burned me like that before. I'm dreadfully sorry about the whole thing, but I really didn't know anything had happened except that the gun jumped and it burned me. That's all I can tell you"

Kitty and Wilson were both subsequently exonerated from blame although it may have well played on Wilson's conscience over the following years and contributed to his suicide in 1931 at the age of only 50. The marriage (if it ever was) to Wilson appears to have been short lived.

In 1922 Kitty publicly announced her engagement to rich New York stockbroker Ralph Ranlet - who was to become her fourth and final husband. Kitty seemed to revel in the attention of the media and used it to advance her career at any opportunity (a 1920's Jordan maybe?).

Unfortunately Kitty neglected to tell told poor old Ralph of her intention to announce the engagement causing him considerable embarrassment when he was contacted by the press and congratulated on his forthcoming nuptials! Despite this setback, they did eventually marry in 1932.

Following the end of her short career in silent films, Kitty continued to tour across North America with her stage show for many years and even appeared on television in the 1950's when she was in her eighties. For some reason, she never made the crossover into the talkies possibly due to her age (she was already in her forties) or perhaps due to her uncanny ability to win court cases in contract disputes!

Kitty died at a nursing home in Brentwood, Long Island, New York on 26th May 1974 at the age of 96, having outlived all her husbands and daughter Vera.



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