Clara Kimball Young: From Vitagraph to Vaudeville


Today is the birthday of Clara Kimball Young (Clarisa Young, 1890-1960). She was a second generation actor, born to a pair of traveling stock company players based out of Chicago. In 1909 she and her husband James Young were hired by Vitagraph studios, taking their places among the country’s first movie stars. The peak of her career was from 1914 through 1917 when she was one of the stars of Lewis Selznick’s World Film Corporation, and briefly her own Clara Kimball Young Film Corporation. After 1917 she continued to be popular in films although no longer in the topmost ranks. (There is much more personal and professional drama to this story; to get the deets go here).

In 1925 she left films entirely, opting to tour big time vaudeville with one act plays. By 1931, vaudeville was as dead as silent film, so she returned to the movies which in any case had by now learned to speak. She managed to keep working through 1940, in such varied vehicles as the spooky serial The Return of Chandu (1934) with Bela Lugosi, and the comedy short Ants in the Pantry (1936) with The Three Stooges.  

To learn more about the history of vaudevilleconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold and for more on silent films see Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Mediaalso available from etc etc etc

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