Suzanne Kaaren: From the 3 Stooges to Donald Trump

Brooklyn-bred chorus cutie Suzanne Kaaren (1912-2004) had quite a journey.

As a young woman she acted with stock companies, posed as a model, and kicked in the choruses of Ziegfeld and Radio City Music Hall. She was 21 when she went out to Hollywood, where she was a bit player in features (and occasional co-star in shorts) for about a decade. Her first picture was the Vitaphone short Seasoned Greetings (1933) with Lita Grey and a very young Sammy Davis Jr. Among her 44 screen credits: The Big Broadcast of 1936, The Great Ziegfeld (1936), No Place Like Rome (1936, with Frank Albertson), When’s Your Birthday? (1937) with Joe E. Brown, Idiot’s Delight (1939), The Women (1939), Miracles for Sale (1939, Tod Browning’s last film), Coat Tails (1939) with Jed Prouty, The Devil Bat (1940) with Bela Lugosi, The Ghost Comes Home (1940), and I Married an Angel (1942). along with several classic Three Stooges shorts including Disorder in the Court (1936), Yes We Have No Bonanza (1939), and What’s the Matador (1942).

In 1943 she married actor Sidney Blackmer, best known now for his role in Rosemary’s Baby (1967). Raquel Torres of the Marx Brothers Duck Soup was a witness to the ceremony. Kaaren retired from the screen shortly after the marriage but continued to act in theatre for many years. Blackmer died in 1973. A cameo in Francis Ford Coppola’s The Cotton Club (1984) was Kaaren’s last screen appearance. But she made the newspapers yet again in 1998 when a certain New York real estate baron and twice-impeached “President” purchased her apartment building (100 Central Park South) and tried to evict all the tenants (which sounds kind of like a scene from Rosemary’s Baby!). Kaaren was 86 years old at the time. She and the others in her rent-controlled building fought back, and won in court. She passed away six years later.

To learn more about shiow business history, please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, and for more on classic comedy please read Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube.