Place of Death
Santa Barbara, California
Profile Bio Text
Katherine MacDonald was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on December 14, 1891. She was the eldest of three daughters. Her father suffered financial troubles and [so] began to drink heavily so her mother took her three daughters to New York City where wealthier relatives helped them get by. Katherine became a successful model, her soft red hair and light complexion making her a favorite of some of the leading fashion illustrators of the day.
Katherine married artist K. Malcolm Struss in 1910 but the marriage was short-lived and they divorced in 1919. In the meantime, Mary had started working as a member of a chorus line in 1914 by lying about her age. Katherine`s mother moved her two younger daughter to Los Angeles which was just beginning to be the center of the US movie industry. Katherine and one of her sisters, Mary, took small parts as extras in the short films then being made. A director noticed Mary and gave her the lead in several dramas. Mary proved small a: a talented actress; she was signed by universal studios and became one of their contract actors.
In 1917 Katherine traveled to Los Angeles for a visit and quickly became interested in the movie business. She tried to force Universal to pay Mary more money, but only managed to prevent Mary from making any more movies for a year. With Mary temporarily unemployed, thanks to Katherine’s meddling, Katherine was forced to look for work and signed a contract with Paramount. She started with small roles but in 1919 broke out in "The Woman Thou Gavest Me." This movie made Katherine a star and she tried to leverage that stardom into a bigger contract for her sister Mary. Once again her efforts backfired, and Mary not only lost her contract with Universal, but she never received an expected contract from Paramount. As a result, Mary worked as a free lance actress the rest of her career, an unenviable position during a time when the studio system bound performers to one particular company.
Katherine started making movies for First National, earning about $50,000 per film. She made 25 films between 1919-1923, almost all romantic dramas. Known as “the American Beauty” she was often panned by critics as having more looks than talent, but she had many fans, most notably President Wilson. In 1920 she became the first woman to produce her own pictures in Hollywood.
MacDonald only made two pictures after 1923; one each in 1925 and 1926. She married Charles S. Johnston, a young Chicago millionaire, in 1924 and they had one son, Britt. They divorced in 1926. In 1928, she married to Christian H. Holmes but that marriage ended in a sensational divorce suit in 1931. MacDonald claimed cruelty--that her husband had fired a revolver at her through a locked door, had deliberately burnt her with lit cigarettes, and had sometimes locked her in a cage. Holmes counter-sued, claiming that MacDonald had embarrassed him by having affairs. MacDonald and Holmes had one daughter.
Katherine never returned to movies after her divorce from Holmes but ran a successful cosmetics business. Estranged from her youngest sister, now named Mary MacLaren, MacDonald sent her occasional checks for small amounts as support. A diabetic, Katherine had one leg amputated in 1954. She died in 1956, leaving a small inheritance to Mary, which unfortunately had already been spent by a nephew.
MacDonald’s statistics list her height as 5 ft. 8 inches with a weight of 130 lb. having blond hair and blue eyes. (Note, contemporary accounts of her modeling career describe her hair color as “soft red.”) She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6777 Hollywood Boulevard.
Couple Profile Source
Full Name at Birth
Katherine Agnew MacDonald
Katherine Agnew MacDonald (December 14, 1891–June 4, 1956) was an American actress and film producer. She was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Has Detailed Data (New)
Actress, film producer, model
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