September 7, 1908
Kankakee, Illinois, U.S.
|Died||December 20, 1944 (aged 36)|
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Resting place||Pinecrest Cemetery, California|
Merna Kennedy (born Maude Kahler; September 7, 1908 – December 20, 1944) was an American actress of the late silent era and the transitional period into talkies.
She was born in Kankakee, one of two children to Maud (née Reed) and John Kahler, a German-American butcher turned chiropractor. After her parents separated, her mother moved the family to California, where she married a grocer two years later, and changed their name to Kennedy. At the outbreak of World War I, their mother prepped seven-year-old Merna and brother Melvin (known as Merle) to tour as a dancing and singing sibling act on the Orpheum and Pantages theater circuits of vaudeville, where she became acquainted with Lita Grey. Merle broke his leg ending the duo, prompting Grey to suggest silent films to Merna.
Kennedy was best known during her brief career for her role opposite Charlie Chaplin in the silent film The Circus (1928). A role she was brought to the attention of Chaplin for by her friend Lita Grey, who became Chaplin's second wife in 1924. As a dancer she had muscular legs, which helped her gain the role of the circus bareback rider.
Kennedy continued acting after The Circus, starring in early sound films, but retired in 1934 when she married choreographer/director Busby Berkeley on February 10, 1934 at Hollywood United Methodist Church. Their marriage broke up by 1936.
- 1929 Broadway
- 1930 The Rampant Age
- 1930 Embarrassing Moments
- 1930 The King of Jazz
- 1930 Worldly Goods
- 1930 The Midnight Special
- 1931 Stepping Out
- 1932 The Gay Buckaroo
- 1932 Lady with a Past
- 1932 Ghost Valley
- 1932 Come On, Tarzan
- 1932 The All American
- 1932 The Red-Haired Alibi
- 1932 I Like It That Way
- 1933 Laughter in Hell
- 1933 Emergency Call
- 1933 Easy Millions
- 1933 Don't Bet on Love
- 1933 I Love That Man (scenes deleted)
- 1933 Arizona to Broadway
- 1933 Police Call
- 1933 The Big Chance
- 1933 Son of a Sailor
- 1934 Wonder Bar
- 1934 Jimmy the Gent
- Birth Records from the Kankakee Historical Society.
- Chaplin, Lita Grey; Vance, Jeffrey (March 5, 1998). Wife of the Life of the Party: A Memoir. Scarecrow Press. ISBN 9781461674320.
- "The Short Life of Merna Kennedy, Chaplin's Co-Star in "The Circus"". (Travalanche). September 7, 2017. Retrieved October 28, 2018.
- Spivak, Jeffrey (September 29, 2010). Buzz: The Life and Art of Busby Berkeley. University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 9780813140087.
- Mercado, Eric (July 1, 2012). "Heaven Sent Los Angeles Magazine". Los Angeles Magazine. Retrieved August 7, 2019.
- "Chaplin Protégé Taken by Death". The Spokesman-Review. Associated Press. December 28, 1944. p. 4.
- Ellenberger, Allan R. (May 1, 2001). Celebrities in Los Angeles Cemeteries: A Directory. McFarland. ISBN 9780786409839.
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