Kate Lester

Kate Lester (born Sarah Cody,[1] 12 June 1857 – 12 October 1924) was an English theatrical and silent film actress. Her family, the Suydams of New York, were staying in Britain at the time of her birth.[2]

Kate Lester
Kate Lester in 1923
Sarah Cody

(1857-06-12)12 June 1857
Died12 October 1924(1924-10-12) (aged 67)
Cause of deathBurns from an explosion
Years active1880–1924

Distinguished heritage

Her family had been well known for some five hundred years. One of her ancestors, Sir William Butts, was the medical doctor to King Henry VIII. The character, Dr. Butts, was in the play Henry VIII by William Shakespeare. His portrait hangs in the National Gallery in London. Lester was brought up in New York and educated in the most exclusive schools. After completing normal school she studied dramatic art, which was the custom of the time. She learned drama from Dion Boucicault, a famed instructor.

Stage and film actress

Lester was a beauty of the stage in the late 19th century. Later she began to play maternal characters in films. It was as a grand dame that she made her debut on the New York stage. The woman scheduled to play Lady Silverdale in Partners became ill on the eve of the premiere. During Lester's stage career she acted with Richard Mansfield, John Drew Jr., William H. Crane, Mrs. Fiske, Robert B. Mantell, Henrietta Crosman, Julia Marlowe, Margaret Anglin and even James J Corbett.

Her first silent features were in 1916. The film titles are Molly Make-Believe, Destiny's Toy, The Social Secretary, The Kiss, and A Coney Island Princess. Lester's last films were released in 1925. They are The Meddler, Raffles, the Amateur Cracksman, and The Price of Pleasure. She attained initial success in emotional roles. She began to develop her grand dame line of characters when her hair turned white prematurely.


Lester died from burns she sustained during an explosion inside her dressing room at Universal Studios in Hollywood in 1924. She was taken to Hollywood Hospital where she succumbed from burns to her hair, face, hands and upper body. She was taken to the emergency room unconscious. Studio personnel broke down the door to her dressing room. It was suspected that the connections to a gas stove in Lester's dressing room had been leaking. When she attempted to light the gas, an explosion followed.

Kate Lester's body was removed to the J.W. Todd undertaking establishment in Culver City, California. She was 67 years old. In private life she was Mrs. Sarah Cody. Her residence was 7131 Bagley Avenue, Culver City.



  1. Silent Film Necrology 2nd edition page 311 c.2001 by Eugene M. Vazzano
  2. Who Was Who on Screen 3rd edition page 432 by Evelyn Mack Truitt c. 1983
  • The Los Angeles Times, Mother In Film World Is Burned, 12 October 1924, Page 12.
  • The Los Angeles Times, Actress In Films Dies From Burns, 13 October 1924, Page A2.
  • Oakland, California Tribune, Veteran Actress Badly Burned in Mystery Blast at Movie Studio, Sunday, 12 October 1924, Page 1.
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