Billie Dove

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Billie Dove
Billie Dove The Blue Book of the Screen.jpg
Publicity photo of Dove from The Blue Book of the Screen (1923)
Bertha Bohny

(1903-05-14)May 14, 1903 [1]
DiedDecember 31, 1997(1997-12-31) (aged 94)
Other namesLillian Bohny
Years active1921–1932 (brief reappearance in 1962)
Spouse(s) Irvin Willat
(m.1923–1929; divorced)
Robert Kenaston
(m.1933–1970; his death); 2 children
John Miller
(m.1973–1997; her death)

Lillian Bohny (born Bertha Bohny; May 14, 1903 – December 31, 1997), professionally known as Billie Dove, was an American actress. [2] [3]


Early life and career

Dove was born Bertha Bohny in 1903 to Charles and Bertha (née Kagl) Bohny, Swiss immigrants. As a teen, she worked as a model to help support her family and was hired as a teenager by Florenz Ziegfeld to appear in his Ziegfeld Follies Revue. She legally changed her name to Lillian Bohny in the early 1920s and moved to Hollywood, where she began appearing in silent films. She soon became one of the more popular actresses of the 1920s, appearing in Douglas Fairbanks' smash hit Technicolor film The Black Pirate (1926), as Rodeo West in The Painted Angel (1929), and The American Beauty (1927).

<i>Ziegfeld Follies</i> musical

The Ziegfeld Follies was a series of elaborate theatrical revue productions on Broadway in New York City from 1907 to 1931, with renewals in 1934 and 1936. They became a radio program in 1932 and 1936 as The Ziegfeld Follies of the Air.

Douglas Fairbanks American actor, screenwriter, director, and producer

Douglas Fairbanks was an American actor, screenwriter, director, and producer. He was best known for his swashbuckling roles in silent films including The Thief of Bagdad, Robin Hood, and The Mark of Zorro but spent the early part of his career making comedies.

Technicolor color motion picture process

Technicolor is a series of color motion picture processes, the first version dating to 1916, and followed by improved versions over several decades.

She married Irvin Willat, the director of her seventh film, in 1923. The two divorced in 1929. Dove had a legion of male fans, one of her more persistent was Howard Hughes. She had a three-year romance with Hughes and was engaged to marry him, but she ended the relationship.

Irvin Willat film director

Irvin V. Willat was an American film director of the silent film era. He directed 39 films between 1917 and 1937. Early in his career Willat worked as a cinematographer on several films. His older brother Edwin Willat (1882–1950) was cinematographer on several silent films.

Howard Hughes American billionaire aviator, engineer, industrialist, and film producer

Howard Robard Hughes Jr. was an American business magnate, investor, record-setting pilot, engineer, film director, and philanthropist, known during his lifetime as one of the most financially successful individuals in the world. He first became prominent as a film producer, and then as an influential figure in the aviation industry. Later in life, he became known for his eccentric behavior and reclusive lifestyle—oddities that were caused in part by a worsening obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD), chronic pain from a near-fatal plane crash, and increasing deafness.

Hughes cast her as a comedian in his film Cock of the Air (1932). She also appeared in his movie The Age for Love (1931). [4]

Other interests

She was also a pilot, poet, and painter. [5]

Early retirement

Following her last film Blondie of the Follies (1932), Dove retired from the screen to be with her family. She married wealthy oil executive Robert Alan Kenaston in 1933, a marriage that lasted for 37 years until his death in 1970. The couple had a son, Robert Alan Kenaston, Jr., who married actress Claire Kelly and died in 1995 from cancer, and an adopted daughter, Gail who briefly married media mogul Merv Adelson. [6] Billie Dove later had a brief third marriage to architect John Miller, which ended in divorce in the 1970s.

<i>Blondie of the Follies</i> 1932 film by Edmund Goulding

Blondie of the Follies is a 1932 American pre-Code comedy film directed by Edmund Goulding and written by Anita Loos and Frances Marion.

Claire Kelly American actress

Claire Kelly was an American actress.

Merv Adelson American TV producer

Mervyn Lee "Merv" Adelson was an American real estate developer and television producer who co-founded Lorimar Television.

Last years/death

Aside from a cameo in Diamond Head (1963), Dove never returned to the movies. She spent her retirement years in Rancho Mirage before moving into the Motion Picture & Television Country House and Hospital in Woodland Hills, California where she died of pneumonia on New Year's Eve 1997, aged 94. [7]

<i>Diamond Head</i> (film) 1963 film by Guy Green

Diamond Head is a 1963 Eastmancolor drama romance film starring Charlton Heston, Yvette Mimieux, George Chakiris, and James Darren, directed by Guy Green, and released by Columbia Pictures. The original music score was composed by John Williams, Hugo Winterhalter composed the theme, and Darren sang the title song. The soundtrack album was released by Colpix Records. It was released on compact disc in 2006 by Film Score Monthly paired with Lalo Schifrin'sGone with the Wave

The Motion Picture & Television Country House and Hospital is a retirement community, with individual cottages, and a fully licensed, acute-care hospital, located at 23388 Mulholland Drive in the Woodland Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles, in the U.S. state of California. It is a service of the Motion Picture & Television Fund ("MPTF"), and provides services for members of the motion picture and television industry.

Pneumonia Infection of the lungs

Pneumonia is an inflammatory condition of the lung affecting primarily the small air sacs known as alveoli. Typically symptoms include some combination of productive or dry cough, chest pain, fever, and trouble breathing. Severity is variable.

She is interred in the Freedom Mausoleum at Forest Lawn Glendale.


Dove has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame located at 6351 Hollywood Blvd. Jazz singer Billie Holiday took her professional pseudonym from Dove as an admirer of the actress. [8]


1921 Get-Rich-Quick Wallingford Dorothy Wellspresumed lost
At the Stage Door Mary Mathewspresumed lost
1922 Polly of the Follies Alysia Potterpresumed lost
Beyond the Rainbow Marion Taylor
Youth to Youth Eve Allisonpresumed lost
One Week of LoveBathing Party Guestuncredited
1923 All the Brothers Were Valiant Priscilla Holtincomplete; Filmmuseum Nederlands
Madness of YouthNanette Benningpresumed lost
Soft Boiled The Girl
The Lone Star Ranger Helen Longstrethpresumed lost
The Thrill Chaser Olala Ussanextant; UCLA Film and TV, four out of five reels
1924 On Time Helen Hendonpresumed lost
Try and Get It Rhoda Perrinpresumed lost
Yankee Madness Dolorespresumed lost
Wanderer of the Wasteland Ruth Vireylost
The Roughneck Felicity Ardenpresumed lost
The Folly of Vanity Alice
1925 The Air Mail Alice Rendonincomplete at Library of Congress
The Light of Western Stars Madeleine Hammondlost
Wild Horse Mesa Sue Melberne
The Lucky Horseshoe Eleanor Huntpresumed lost
The Fighting Heart Doris Andersonlost
The Ancient Highway Antoinette St. Iveslost
1926 The Black Pirate Princess Isobel
The Lone Wolf Returns Marcia Mayfair
The Marriage Clause Sylvia Jordanincomplete at Library of Congress
Kid Boots Eleanore Belmore
1927 An Affair of the Follies Tamaralost
Sensation Seekers Luena "Egypt" Hagen
The Tender Hour Marcia Kane
The Stolen Bride Sari
The American Beauty Millicent Howardlost
The Love Mart Antoinette Frobellelost
1928 The Heart of a Follies Girl Teddy O'Daypresumed lost
Yellow Lily Judith Peredy
Night Watch Yvonne Corlaix
Adoration Elena
1929 Careers Hélène Gromairelost
The Man and the Moment Joan Winslow
Her Private Life Lady Helen Haden
The Painted Angel Mammie Hudlerlost; Vitaphone track survives
1930 The Other Tomorrow Edith Larrisonlost
A Notorious Affair Patricia Hanley
Sweethearts and Wives Femme de Chambre
One Night at Susie's Mary Martin
1931 The Lady Who Dared Margaret Townsend
The Age for Love Jean Hurtlost
1932 Cock of the Air Lili de Rosseau
Blondie of the Follies Lottie
1962 Diamond Head HerselfCameo role

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  1. Other sources including the California registry of births and deaths cite 1900 or 1901 as her year of birth, although the 1910 census supports 1903 as her year of birth, as does her entry in the New York City Birth Registry.
  2. Drew, William M. Billie Dove profile Archived July 24, 2008, at the Wayback Machine , The Lady in the Main Title: On the Twenties and Thirties. Vestal Press, 1997.
  3. Wagner, Bruce. "Moving Pictures", Annals of Hollywood, The New Yorker. July 20, 1998, p. 54.
  4. Dietrich, Noah; Thomas, Bob (1972). Howard, The Amazing Mr. Hughes. Greenwich: Fawcett Publications, Inc. p. 89.
  5. Obituary, New York Times, January 6, 1998.
  6. Los Angeles Times: "Gail Adelson; Hostess, Home Designer to the Stars" by Myrna Oliver February 22, 1999
  7. "Billie Dove (1903–1997)", Retrieved February 17, 2015.
  8. Kliment, Bud. Billie Holiday . Holloway House Publishing, 1990, p. 29. ISBN   978-0-87067-561-4.