Doris Kenyon

Active - 1916 - 1939  |   Born - Sep 5, 1897   |   Died - Sep 1, 1979   |   Genres - Drama, Romance

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Biography by Hal Erickson

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). 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. Now that program REALLY required the delightfully non-desperate Doris Kenyon to put on an act!

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