The Other Kay Hughes

The title of this piece refers to the fact that another female star of B movies whom we’ve written about, Carol Hughes, also sometimes went by the name of Kay Hughes. Meanwhile, the one in question, Catherine Mary Hughes (1914-98) also sometimes went by the name of Catherine Hughes. We give her the briefest of nods, for she had the briefest of careers: just over two dozens films over a dozen years (1933-45) with six of those years inactive. But I like what little there is of this dainty footprint, so we share it.

Hughes was a local L.A. girl who did some modeling, took dance classes, and landed her first walk-on at 19 in Saturday’s Millions (1933). She did bit parts in comedy shorts: Men in Black (1934) with the Three Stooges, The Chases of Pimple Street (1933) with Charley Chase, and Slightly Static (1935) with Thelma Todd and Patsy Kelly. She was a chorus girl in the musicals George White’s Scandals of 1935, Broadway Melody of 1936, and Eddie Cantor’s Strike Me Pink (1936). She then had a small speaking part in William Wellman’s western classic Robin Hood of El Dorado (1936), followed by Every Saturday Night (1936) the first of the Jones Family comedies.

In 1936, Hughes signed with Republic and here is where she got starring and co-starring roles, and appeared in such well known serials as The Three Mesquiteers (1936) with Bob Livingston, Crash Corrigan and Syd Saylor; and Dick Tracy (1937) with Ralph Byrd. She co-starred with Gene Autry in Ride Ranger Ride and The Big Show (both 1936). She was also in the Ellery Queen picture Mandarin Mystery (1936) starring Eddie Quillan. In 1937, after only six months at Republic she switched horses and moved to Universal, appearing in the serial Radio Patrol and the the thriller Trouble at Midnight in 1937. She went two years without a picture, got married in 1940, and then got a supporting part in the Columbia, western Riders of the Badlands with Charles Starrett, as well as a walk-on in Honolulu Lu with Lupe Velez and Leon Errol, both 1941. Then she had a baby and took another three years off, returning for two more pictures in 1945: the female leads in Enemy of the Law with Tex Ritter, and Fighting Bill Carson with Buster Crabbe. Hughes remarried in 1947 and left the business. She was only 33!

For more on classic comedy films, like Kay Hughes’ earliest ones, read  Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube; to learn more about show biz history , please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous