Kathlyn Williams was born in Butte, Montana on May 31, 1879. She was a popular American actress who performed on stage as well as in early silent film.
“Give me some particulars of your early life,” an interviewer once asked her. “That is easy and brief,” said Miss Williams. “I was born at Butte, Montana, where my father was a mining man. We moved to Helena, where I had my early schooling. I was an only child.”
“Spoiled?” I queried.
“Not more than other 'only' children,” she answered with a smile, “but I had a will of my own. I grew up in an atmosphere of animals and music, for my mother was an accomplished musician and possessed a beautiful voice…but she never sang professionally.”
Williams attended Montana Wesleyan University in Helena during the late 1890s and excelled in diction. She lost her father when she was a teenager, and her mother made extra money by renting out homes in Centerville. In 1900 her friends held a concert her to gather funds to help pay her college tuition. “What did I want to be when I was a little girl? Oh, that was funny! Nearly every girl has wanted to be a nun at one time and an actress at another, but I wanted to be both at the same time. It was a very real tragedy to me that I couldn't figure out some way in which the two could be reconciled. When I grew to be a little older I realized it would be absolutely necessary to choose between them. So, I decided to be an actress.”
Williams began her career in Chicago and made her first film in 1908. She played ‘Cherry Malotte’ in The Spoilers in 1914. In 1916, she starred in the thirteen episode adventure film serial, The Adventures of Kathlyn. “Toddles, the elephant used, has the reputation of having killed two of his keepers, so our producer was afraid to have me try and wanted me to use a dummy figure. Realizing how much more real it would be to have it true to life, I was anxious to try, and always having been fond of animals, especially wild ones, I set to work to win Toddles as my friend. Knowing the surest way was through his stomach I began visiting him daily with fruit…whenever he would see me he would trumpet and call, and I was always prepared… Whenever he did what I wanted I gave him an orange…At last he would allow me to get on his head. Oh! He was splendid, and I felt as safe up there as on the ground. It took a month to accomplish this, but it was fascinating work.”
She was busy throughout the silent film era but age and the advent of talkies saw her make only five sound films, the last in 1935. Kathlyn evolved from a comedienne and serial player in silents to portraying character roles in the early 1930s. “Unless a girl has talent I would not advise her to enter dramatic work at all, but if the talent is there and is backed by ambition and determination to succeed, plus personality, I certainly would not discourage her. I think that training in a dramatic school or in a stock company under a good director is really essential for success in pictures, though many have made good without it.”Williams was married three times. Her first husband was Otto H. Kainer, who ran an import and export business on Wall Street in New York City. They were wed on October 2, 1903, and their son, Victor Hugo, was born in 1905. After the death of her mother in December 1909 and the failure of her marriage, Williams decided to revive her acting career. On March 4, 1913, she married Frank R. Allen, but the marriage was a failure from the start and lasted a little over a year. On June 30, 1914, she filed for divorce in Los Angeles. She later married Paramount Pictures executive Charles Eyton on June 2, 1916 in California. On February 25, 1922, her beloved son, now called Victor Eyton, died suddenly at the age of 16 from complications from the influenza. In order to overcome her immense grief, the Eytons took an extended trip to Asia which lasted for four months. The Eytons eventually divorced in 1931
In 1949 Williams was involved in a deadly automobile accident, which claimed the life of her friend, while they were returning home from a trip in Las Vegas; as a result of the accident, Williams lost her leg. Kathlyn Williams died of a heart attack in Hollywood on September 23, 1960. She was found in her home, was cremated and her ashes were stored in Los Angeles. After her death, Williams bequeathed most of her monetary assets, which amounted to nearly $287,000 to charitable causes such as The McKinley Industrial Home for Boys, the Motion Picture Relief Fund, and to an orthopedic and children's hospital.
For her contribution to the motion picture industry, Kathlyn Williams has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The Adventures of Kathlyn in 1916 was so popular that she became a trendsetter in women's fashions and coiffures and inspired a waltz, a clothing line and a cocktail to be named after her.
“I dislike being interviewed…and housework…I like home and books, and then more books, animals of every shape, size and color, and everything connected with the glorious out-of-doors. I am a rabid baseball fan, and like fencing. Music is a passion with me…Then I love pretty frocks and the society of nice, sensible women. There is my automobile, which must not be forgotten. Motoring is my favorite outdoor recreation.”