Kay Johnson

Catherine Townsend Johnson (November 29, 1904 November 17, 1975)[1] was an American stage and film actress.

Kay Johnson
Catherine Townsend Johnson

(1904-11-29)November 29, 1904
DiedNovember 17, 1975(1975-11-17) (aged 70)
Alma materAmerican Academy of Dramatic Arts
Years active19291954
John Cromwell
(m. 1928; div. 1946)
Children2, including James Cromwell


Johnson was born in Mount Vernon, New York. Her father was architect Thomas R. Johnson, who worked in the firm of Cass Gilbert, the architect of several noteworthy buildings in New York City, including the Woolworth Building, the New York Customs House,[2] and many library buildings. When she was a junior, she dropped out of Grew Seminary to study at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts.[3]



Her professional acting debut was in Beggar on Horseback,[3] and she acted in R.U.R. in Chicago.[4] She moved to California after appearing in The Little Accident in Providence, Rhode Island. She was accompanied by her soon-to-be husband John Cromwell, who worked as a director in Hollywood.

Johnson's Broadway credits included State of the Union (1945), A Free Soul (1928), Crime (1927), No Trespassing (1926), One of the Family (1925), All Dressed Up (1925), The Morning After (1925), Beggar on Horseback (1925), Beggar on Horseback (1924), and Go West, Young Man (1923).[5]


Johnson was signed to a contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer by Cecil B. DeMille following a performance of The Silver Cord[4] at the Repertory Theater in Los Angeles, California. The play was produced by Simeon Gest of the Figueroa Playhouse. Her film debut came in Dynamite (1929), written by Jeanie Macpherson and featuring Charles Bickford and Conrad Nagel. Production was delayed while Johnson recovered from an appendectomy.

She went on to appear in The Ship from Shanghai (1930), This Mad World (1930), Billy the Kid (1930), The Spoilers (1930) with Gary Cooper and Betty Compson, DeMille's Madam Satan (1930), Passion Flower (1930), Capra's American Madness (1932), Thirteen Women (1932), Of Human Bondage (which starred Leslie Howard and Bette Davis), Jalna (1935) and Mr. Lucky (1943). Johnson was cast opposite Warner Baxter in a screen adaptation of Such Men Are Dangerous by Elinor Glyn. The story was adapted to the screen by Fox Film.

Johnson's final film appearance was in the 1954 British film Jivaro (also known as Lost Treasure of the Amazon).

Personal life

In October 1928, Johnson married actor, director and producer John Cromwell. The couple had two sons, one of whom is actor James Cromwell. Johnson and Cromwell divorced in July 1946.[6]


On November 17, 1975, Johnson died from a heart attack at the age of 70 at her home in Waterford, Connecticut.[1]

Partial filmography


  1. Wilson, Scott (2016). Resting Places: The Burial Sites of More Than 14,000 Famous Persons, 3d ed. McFarland. p. 381. ISBN 9781476625997. Retrieved July 24, 2019.
  2. Peak, Mayme Ober (March 20, 1930). "Reel Life in Hollywood". The Boston Globe. Massachusetts, Boston. p. 24. Retrieved July 24, 2019 via Newspapers.com.
  3. Harris, Rache (July 28, 1930). "Movie Monotypes". Star-Gazette. New York, Elmira. p. 4. Retrieved July 24, 2019 via Newspapers.com.
  4. Thomas, Dan (January 19, 1930). "Kay Johnson Is a Success -- Just As Her Mother Had Dreamed". The Central New Jersey Home News. New Jersey, New Brunswick. p. 11. Retrieved July 24, 2019 via Newspapers.com.
  5. "Kay Johnson". Internet Broadway Database. The Broadway League. Archived from the original on July 24, 2019. Retrieved July 24, 2019.
  6. Associated Press news release, 10 July 1946, Couple, Wed 18 Years, in Divorce Suit
  • Los Angeles Times, "Demille Features Child Actor", January 17, 1929, Page A10.
  • Los Angeles Times, "Kay Johnson Under Knife", March 3, 1929, Page C15.
  • Los Angeles Times, "Kay Johnson Continues", May 30, 1929, Page A6.
  • Los Angeles Times, "Kay Johnson, as Genteel Heroine of Cecil B. DeMille, Plays First Screen Role", July 21, 1929, Page B13.
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