Today is the birthday of Katherine Lee (1909-1968). She and her sister Jane (1912-1957) were a kiddie sister act who starred in silent movies and vaudeville from the mid teens through the mid 1930s. They were the children of vaudeville juggler Tommy Banahan and Irish dancer Irene Lee (see more on them on Kevin Fitzpatrick’s blog here). They first gained notice in Annette Kellerman’s film Neptune’s Daugher in 1914 (although they’d been acting in films since the year before). The pair began to get their own starring vehicles, appearing in these and other films over the next ten years.
From 1920 through 1933 they were also big time vaudeville stars, appearing in a succession of specially devised turns that gave them the opportunity to act, sing and dance. They got to do their act one last time for 1936’s Vitaphone Billboard, after which the young ladies retired.
To find out more about the vaudeville past and present, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous; and for more on silent film history don’t miss Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube