Doris Kenyon 1897 - 1979

View a newly discovered photograph of her taken sometime in the 1920's and a photo album...
click here.....

Milton Sills
Rudolph Valentino
A remarkable woman - Doris Kenyon had 4 husbands - and in her later years collected books!

 

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Doris Kenyon facinated me as a child - especially when I learnt that she was my cousin!

 This is a tribute to her.

An American actress - Doris Kenyon was the daughter of well-to-do writer and publisher James B. Kenyon, the editor of 'The Standard Dictionary' and one-time protege of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

While attending an Authors Club meeting with her father, 16-year-old Doris was invited to sing; she so impressed one of the guests, composer Victor Herbert, that she was cast in Herbert's stage musical 'Princess Pat'.

In 1916, one year after her stage debut, Kenyon entered films with The Hidden Hand. A pretty ingenue who matriculated into an interesting if not outstanding actress, Kenyon did quite well in silent films, at one point costarring with Rudolph Valentino in Monsieur Beaucaire.

In 1927, she married Milton Sills, a major star with whom Kenyon had first appeared in The Rack (1916); Sills and his wife appeared together in seven films, all of them moneymakers.

Kenyon was playing tennis with Milton in 1930 when he suddenly was felled by a fatal heart attack. She was disconsolate and planned retirement, but was talked out of it by actor George Arliss, who arranged for Kenyon to have strong co-starring roles in his films Alexander Hamilton (1931) and Voltaire (1933).

The following is from Life with Father: by Dorothy Sills Lindsley

'Mother and Father were divorced in 1925, and Father married Doris Kenyon. They were married I believe in the Fall of 1926. My poor mother tried to commit suicide the day Father married Doris which taught me a lesson -- never to be the one dumped...but if anyone is going to be dumped it would be I who did the dumping. Mother never married again. Father's marriage to Doris wasn't too happy. The first seven months of their marriage she had a difficult pregnancy and remained in New York while he built their dream house, "El Sueno" on North Saltair Avenue in Brentwood Heights. Their only child Kenyon Clarence was born in New York City and Father wasn't able to be there. When I first visited my Father after the divorce in 1927, Doris arrived with the new baby. In those days the canyon, which overlooked to the West, was filled with rabbits and coyotes who howled all night. It was very wild. Later, Gary Cooper and Tyrone Power built there. Father had a nervous breakdown sometime in 1928. He recovered from that and made a couple of films before his death in 1930. He had his first and only heart attack at the age of forty-eight. I was visiting him that summer and a young friend of mine played tennis opposite Doris and Father. They had just beaten us when Father complained of pain in his left shoulder which he had since morning. We stopped playing and shortly thereafter, I was sent to Santa Monica to get the Fire Department. A Fire Engine followed me up to Saltair Ave. They were the only ones to administer oxygen outside of a hospital. Father was dead within an hour after playing tennis. Doris Kenyon re-married three times after Father died: first to Arthur E. Hopkins for a couple of months, then Albert Lasker (who lasted a year) and finally Artur Rubenstein's brother-in-law, Bronislav Mlynarski (d. 1971), who was really her favorite husband or so she told me. Albert Lasker was introduced to her by Will Hays and after meeting her only three times, Will Hays called her and said he had something important to tell her and could he come out to see her. When he visited her, he said "I didn't think I'd ever pull a "John Alden" but Lasker would like to know if you are involved with anyone as he would like to marry you." Laskar's wife had died a couple of years before and he told Doris he needed someone to share his philanthropic works. He also told her he was impotent. (I think that he secretly hoped that marrying Doris might restore his virility.) However, he wanted a divorce after a year and settled a million dollars on her. Not bad. I liked Doris but I don't think she was a romantic type. My half-brother Kenyon died in his early forties. He left four children, the oldest one died of AIDS in San Francisco a few years back. I never met his siblings. Kenyon's second wife died of alcoholism. Very sad. '

No longer a romantic leading lady, Kenyon had matured enough to convincingly play John Barrymore's truculent society-climbing wife in Counsellor at Law (1933). The actress yearned at this point to return to her singing career (she had, after all, appeared with the Metropolitan Opera at one point in the teens); while retraining her voice, she began writing magazine articles for women's magazines, a venture which proved successful.

Rounding out her film career with Man in the Iron Mask (1939), Kenyon spent the war years singing with the USO and lecturing to women's clubs.

Doris Kenyon was almost completely retired the last quarter century of her life, appearing only in a handful of TV shows as favors to her show-business friends; one such friend was Efrem Zimbalist Jr., who in 1958 cast Kenyon as a Norma Desmond-type faded star desperate for a comeback on 77 Sunset Strip.

-- Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide

See a list of Doris Kenyon's Films. Click here ..........


Links

On Line Fact Sheet - Filmography

Doris Kenyon Mlynarski Collection 

Life with father - Milton Sills

Milton Sills
They were even mentioned in poetry!

Classic Movies

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