Promotional photograph of Karen Morley in 1930s
December 12, 1909
Ottumwa, Iowa, U.S.
|Died||March 8, 2003 93) (aged|
Woodland Hills, Los Angeles, California, U.S.
(m. 1932; div. 1943)
(m. 1943; died 1984)
Life and career
Born in Ottumwa, Iowa, Morley lived there until she was 13 years old. When she moved to Hollywood, she attended Hollywood High School and later graduated from UCLA.
After working at the Pasadena Playhouse, she came to the attention of the director Clarence Brown, at a time when he had been looking for an actress to stand-in for Greta Garbo in screen tests. This led to a contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and roles in films such as Mata Hari (1931), Scarface (1932), The Phantom of Crestwood (1932), The Mask of Fu Manchu (1932), Arsene Lupin (1933), Gabriel Over the White House (1933), and Dinner at Eight (1933).
In 1934, Morley left MGM after arguments about her roles and her private life. Her first film after leaving the studio was Our Daily Bread (1934), directed by King Vidor. She continued to work as a freelance performer and appeared in Michael Curtiz's Black Fury, and The Littlest Rebel with Shirley Temple. Without the support of a studio, her roles became less frequent; however, she did play Mr. Collins' wife Charlotte Lucas in Pride and Prejudice (1940), which was produced by MGM. The film was critically well-received, but it did not advance her career; as a result, Morley turned her attention to stage plays.
In the early 1940s, she appeared in several plays on Broadway, including the role aas Gerda in the original production of The Walrus and The Carpenter.
Her career came to an end in 1947 when she testified before the House Un-American Activities Committee and refused to answer questions about her alleged American Communist Party membership. She maintained her political activism for the rest of her life. In 1954, she ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor of New York on the American Labor Party ticket.
After being blacklisted in Hollywood by the studio bosses, she never rebuilt her acting career.
In 1993, she appeared in The Great Depression, a documentary TV series produced by Henry Hampton's Blackside Productions in association with BBC2 and WGBH. In the series, she talked about how helpless she felt as a privileged Hollywood actress in the face of all the poverty and suffering that surrounded her. She also spoke of her experience making Our Daily Bread and working for King Vidor, whom she described as a conservative who thought that people willingly should help each other without government interference.
Morley was married to director Charles Vidor from 1932 until 1943. They met on the set of Man About Town, in which Morley played the female lead, and Vidor was co-director. Vidor and Morley had a son, Michael Karoly, who was born in August 1933. Morley and Vidor were divorced in 1943. Later this year, she married the actor Lloyd Gough. They had one child together. They were married until Gough's death in 1984.
Morley lived in Santa Monica, California during her later years. She died of pneumonia at the age of 93 in Woodland Hills, California, and was survived by two grandsons, a great-grandson, and a great-granddaughter.
- Thru Different Eyes (1929) - Bit Part (uncredited)
- Inspiration (1931) - Liane Latour
- Strangers May Kiss (1931) - Dining Companion (uncredited)
- Daybreak (1931) - Emily Kessner
- Never the Twain Shall Meet (1931) - Maisie
- Laughing Sinners (1931) - Estelle Seldon (photo in newspaper) (uncredited)
- Politics (1931) - Myrtle Burns
- High Stakes (1931) - Anne Cornwall
- The Sin of Madelon Claudet (1931) - Alice
- The Cuban Love Song (1931) - Crystal
- Mata Hari (1931) - Carlotta
- Arsene Lupin (1932) - Sonia
- Are You Listening? (1932) - Alice Grimes
- Scarface (1932) - Poppy
- The Man About Town (1932) - Helena
- The Washington Masquerade (1932) - Consuela Fairbanks
- Downstairs (1932) - Karl's New Employer (uncredited)
- The Phantom of Crestwood (1932) - Jenny Wren
- The Mask of Fu Manchu (1932) - Sheila Barton
- Flesh (1932) - Laura Nash
- Gabriel Over the White House (1933) - Pendola Molloy
- Dinner at Eight (1933) - Mrs. Lucy Talbot
- The Crime Doctor (1934) - Andra
- Our Daily Bread (1934) - Mary Sims
- Straight Is the Way (1934) - Bertha
- Wednesday's Child (1934) - Kathryn Phillips
- Black Fury (1935) - Anna Novak
- $10 Raise (1935) - Emily Converse
- The Healer (1935) - Evelyn Allen
- Thunder in the Night (1935) - Madalaine
- The Littlest Rebel (1935) - Mrs. Cary
- Devil's Squadron (1936) - Martha Dawson
- Beloved Enemy (1936) - Cathleen O'Brien
- Outcast (1937) - Margaret Stevens
- The Girl from Scotland Yard (1937) - Linda Beech
- The Last Train from Madrid (1937) - Baroness Helene Rafitte
- On Such a Night (1937) - Gail Stanley
- Kentucky (1938) - Mrs. Goodwin - 1861
- Pride and Prejudice (1940) - Mrs. Collins
- Jealousy (1945) - Dr. Monica Anderson
- The Unknown (1946) - Rachel Martin Arnold
- The Thirteenth Hour (1947) - Eileen Blair
- Framed (1947) - Beth
- Samson and Delilah (1949) - (uncredited)
- M (1951) - Mrs. Coster
- Born to the Saddle (1953) - Kate Daggett
- Lentz, Harris M., III (2004). Obituaries in the Performing Arts, 2003: Film, Television, Radio, Theatre, Dance, Music, Cartoons and Pop Culture. McFarland. p. 280. ISBN 9780786452088. Retrieved July 25, 2018.
- Scheuer, Philip K. (December 11, 1932). "Karen Morley's Honesty Makes Her 'Black Sheep'". The Los Angeles Times. California, Los Angeles. p. 48. Retrieved July 25, 2018 – via Newspapers.com.
- Bergan, Ronald (April 21, 2003). "Obituary: Karen Morley" – via www.theguardian.com.
- The Gettysburg Times, "Discovered", November 3, 1932, Page 7.
- Los Angeles Times, "Karen Morley, 93, A Movie Star Until a Congressional Hearing", April 27, 2003, Page N47.
- McGilligan, Patrick and Paul Buhle (1997). Tender Comrades: A Backstory of the Hollywood Blacklist. St. Martin's Press. ISBN 0-312-17046-7.
- Oakland Tribune, "One Star's Family", September 9, 1935, Page 68.
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