Kate Price: Classic Comedienne from Cork

Comedienne and actress Kate Price (Katherine Duffy, 1872-1943) was a happy discovery this morning. Though I’d seen her in many things, but I hadn’t realized that she was the older sister of Jack Duffy! Kate was born back in Cork, hen moved to the States (Rhode Island) when she was nine, prior to Jack’s birth.

Circa 1890 Kate began appearing on the vaudeville stage with her husband Joseph Price Ludwig. She was a large gal, highly useful for comedy purposes, and this became especially handy in comedy films. From 1910 through 1937 she starred in over 300 movies, many with the top comedy stars and franchises of her day. One of the first studios she worked with was the old Brooklyn-based Vitagraph, appearing with John Bunny, Flora Finch, Sidney Drew and others. In the middle of the teens she was in 14 Vim comedy shorts, produced in Jacksonsville, with co-star Oliver Hardy. Price’s comedies with Fatty Arbuckle and Al St. John included The Waiter’s Ball (1916), Good Night, Nurse! (1918), and Love (1919) — the last two also with Buster Keaton, with whom she also appeared in My Wife’s Relations (1922) and Seven Chances (1925). You can see her in Sally, Irene and Mary (1925) with Joan Crawford, Constance Bennett and Sally O’Neill, and The Perfect Clown (1925) with Larry Semon. In 1926, she became one of the principal cast members of the popular Cohens and the Kellys series, along with Charlie Murray, Vera Gordon and Jason Robards Sr. These comedies ran through 1932. She played Alice White’s mother (i.e. Mrs. Dugan)  in Show Girl (1928).

She’s in just a handful of talking films, mostly in bit parts, among them  Reaching for the Moon (1930) with Douglas Fairbanks and Bebe Daniels, and Cockeyed Cavaliers (1934) with Wheeler and Woolsey. Her last film was the Preston Sturges-scripted screwball comedy Easy Living (1937). These are just the classic comedy high points of a highly prolific career. She was 70, and six-years retired, when she passed away in 1943.

For more on silent comedy film, please read Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube; to find out more about the history of vaudeville, please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous