Sunday, January 11, 2015
I was going to include Katherine Grant in the series about Bathing Beauties, (she was a Hal Roach beauty, not Mack Sennett, but same difference) but I kept finding more and more intriguing information on her and wanted to give her her own entry.
So, let us begin!
Katherine Grant was born on May 1, 1904 in Los Angeles, California. She was the youngest child and only daughter of John Grant, a carpenter and car salesman, and his wife, Anita May Whiteman. Her brother, Chester was born in 1901.
John and Anita Grant divorced in 1919 and John took Chester and moved to San Francisco. Meanwhile, Katherine stayed behind in Los Angeles with her mother. Anita later remarried, while John passed away in 1921.
In 1922, Katherine was encouraged by her mother to enter the Miss Los Angeles pageant. Her mother's instincts proved right because Katherine won! The following year she headed out to Atlantic City to compete in the Miss America pageant. She didn't win, but, hey, she made it that far!
This is where we are going to throw in a little bit of scandal. Before she entered the pageant, Katherine had worked as an artist's model, as a lot of young starlets have done. Some of the work that she did for photographers included nude modeling, but she just thought it was for the artist's use only. However, when she was in Atlantic City for the Miss America pageant, she saw postcards of her photos for sale. She immediately tried to stop the sale of these photos, but was shown the release she had signed that gave away her rights to the photos. Katherine was taken aback because she thought that the paper she signed was simply just a receipt for the photos taken.
Soon after this, she received a phone call from a man threatening to show Hal Roach (who she was contracted to at the time) the nude photos of her unless she gave him a substantial amount of money. According to the photographer, the original plates from his shop had been stolen and he had nothing to do with the extortion attempt. It was also rumored that the extortionist had worked as a movie extra with Katherine at some point and seized upon the opportunity to make money off of her.
One of frustrating things in regards to researching the case is that the outcome of the whole ordeal was not made public. However, I think it is safe to assume that the outcome was in Katherine's favor because the scandal was kept pretty quiet as compared to what it could have been.
I briefly mentioned above that Katherine was signed with the Hal Roach studios, one of the great things that happened after she won the title of Miss Los Angeles. Her film career lasted from 1922 until 1926 and she appeared in around 50 films and shorts. She was most well known for frequently costarring with Laurel and Hardy and Charley Chase.
She modeled, she acted, and she also danced! When she was not working on the sound stage, Katherine also taught dancing. One of her students was little miss Mary Kornman of "Our Gang" fame. The two probably looked quite alike considering that Katherine was a bitty little 5'4''. (I'm 5'8'' so anyone shorter than me is bitty, sorry!)
Unfortunately, life didn't ease up on Katherine. In 1925, while crossing the street near her home studio, she was hit by a car. The driver, described by witnesses as a teenage boy, was never identified as he sped away from the scene. Katherine was taken to the hospital where thankfully her injuries were minor. The doctors, however, prescribed bed rest and taking a break from work. Katherine would have none of it and went back to work a few days later to continue filming on her latest picture.
A year or so later it was reported in magazines that Katherine had been a patient in a sanitarium under the name, "Ruth Woods." She apparently had been suffering from shock due to the accident and needed more care than her mother could provide her. According to a 1932 magazine article, Katherine had also been suffering from the effects of yo-yo dieting. Mother Anita tried to help save her daughter's reputation by telling reporters that her daughter was just sick and there was nothing seriously wrong with her, especially mentally! Her daughter just needed rest! An understatement if there ever was one, Katherine ended up spending the last few years of her life in hospital.
Katherine Grant passed away on April 2, 1937 in a San Bernardino hospital. Her cause of death was listed as pulmonary tuberculosis. She was only 32 years old.
She was buried in an unmarked grave in Evergreen Cemetery in Los Angeles. I don't know why it still remains unmarked.
I cannot find any information on Katherine ever marrying or any relationships she had.
I read an anecdote online that reportedly came from actress Esther Ralston's memoir. It seems that Esther and Katherine were roommates at one point and that Katherine chose to launder her underwear by wearing it while she was in the bathtub. Interesting...