Clara Kimball Young

Active - 1909 - 1942  |   Born - in Benton Harbor, MI  |   Died - Oct 15, 1960 in Woodland Hills, CA  |   Genres - Drama, Romance, Crime, Western

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American actress Clara Kimball Young started making films as an ingénue at the Brooklyn-based Vitagraph Studios in 1912. She was skilled at both comedy and drama; one of her better roles was the hypnotized title character in Trilby (1917). Clara married James Young, a prominent actor and director, and saw to it that her fame would help promote his career, even after the marriage faltered. The actress was at her best in glossy (and profitable) soap operas, wherein she frequently played a woman victimized by duplicitous men; one such role, in 1919's The Loves of Sunya, had her playing opposite the novice Rudolph Valentino. By the time sound came in, Young had put on weight and become quite matronly; in addition, her voice was softer and more childlike than was suitable for her sophisticated image. The actress' sound career consisted of minor roles in A-films, character parts in Westerns and serials, and even one appearance as the non-plussed foil of the Three Stooges in the 1936 two-reeler Ants in the Pantry. She gallantly held up against all these career deprivations, surviving in films until 1941; one of her last parts was as a guest star in the low-budget Mister Celebrity (1941), in which, as part of the film's plot line, she shared pleasant reminiscences with fellow silent film favorite Francis X. Bushman, as well as with former boxing champ James Jeffries. Young was less sentimental in Hollywood Extra Girl, a 1935 short subject designed to promote Cecil B. De Mille's The Crusades. This time around, she was seen wearily explaining to a would-be starlet how heartbreaking and discouraging the motion picture business could be; it was a remarkably heartfelt performance. Before retiring for keeps, Clara Kimball Young made a few TV appearances in the late '40s and early '50s, at least one of them on a Los Angeles-based interview program hosted by a twentysomething Johnny Carson.

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