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Also Known As: Lillian Bohny Died: December 31, 1997
Born: May 14, 1903 Cause of Death: pneumonia
Birth Place: New York City, New York, USA Profession: actor, model, showgirl

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

One of the loveliest actresses of the silent screen, Billie Dove never became a superstar like Greta Garbo or Clara Bow, but her 12-year career, consisting of 36 silent films and 12 talkies, gained her many devoted fans and a place in history as a reliable, charming leading lady. With her ivory skin and dark hair and eyes, the native New Yorker took the name Billie Dove in her early teens and began working as an artist's model and film extra. Florenz Ziegfeld snapped her up for his "Follies" in 1917, where she remained through 1919 (also appearing in Ziegfeld's rooftop "Midnight Frolics"). Dove's extra work in features paid off, when she was finally cast in a major role in "Get-Rich-Quick Wallingford" in 1921. Abandoning the stage for films, she and her mother moved west to Hollywood in 1922. She married director Irving Willat the following year, and appeared in a handful of films before hitting the big-time as Douglas Fairbanks' leading lady in the Technicolor "The Black Pirate" (1926). This firmly established her as a major player, and Dove went on to star in such films as "The Marriage Clause" (1926), with her favorite director Lois Weber, "Kid Boots" (1926), with Eddie Cantor and Clara Bow, "An...

One of the loveliest actresses of the silent screen, Billie Dove never became a superstar like Greta Garbo or Clara Bow, but her 12-year career, consisting of 36 silent films and 12 talkies, gained her many devoted fans and a place in history as a reliable, charming leading lady. With her ivory skin and dark hair and eyes, the native New Yorker took the name Billie Dove in her early teens and began working as an artist's model and film extra. Florenz Ziegfeld snapped her up for his "Follies" in 1917, where she remained through 1919 (also appearing in Ziegfeld's rooftop "Midnight Frolics").

Dove's extra work in features paid off, when she was finally cast in a major role in "Get-Rich-Quick Wallingford" in 1921. Abandoning the stage for films, she and her mother moved west to Hollywood in 1922. She married director Irving Willat the following year, and appeared in a handful of films before hitting the big-time as Douglas Fairbanks' leading lady in the Technicolor "The Black Pirate" (1926). This firmly established her as a major player, and Dove went on to star in such films as "The Marriage Clause" (1926), with her favorite director Lois Weber, "Kid Boots" (1926), with Eddie Cantor and Clara Bow, "An American Beauty" (1927), her signature film, and "Heart of a Follies Girl" (1928).

In 1930, Dove was involved in a scandal when millionaire film producer Howard Hughes (then in the process of his own divorce) reportedly paid Irving Willat $300,000 to divorce her. She signed with Hughes' Caddo Company and made two unremarkable films: "The Age for Love" (1931) and "Cock of the Air" (1932). None of her other talkies, all with First National, amounted to much, either. She retired in 1933 after her role in MGM's "Blondie of the Follies" was re-written to show off co-star Marion Davies.

Billie Dove never looked back. She re-married twice, and became an amateur painter and published poet. In 1962, she was back in the headlines after winning a jingle contest for the film "Gidget Goes Hawaiian". As part of the prize, she was convinced to play a cameo role in "Diamond Head" (1962), after which she returned to a life of anonymity, turning down most interview requests and pointedly refusing to discuss Howard Hughes.

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Blondie of the Follies (1932) Lottie [Callahan, also known as Lurline Cavanaugh]
2.
 Cock of the Air (1932) Lilli de Rousseau
3.
 The Age for Love (1931) Jean Hurd
4.
 The Lady Who Dared (1931) Margaret Townsend
5.
 One Night at Susie's (1930) Mary
6.
 A Notorious Affair (1930) Patricia Hanley Gherardi
7.
 Sweethearts and Wives (1930) Femme de chambre
8.
 The Other Tomorrow (1930) Edith Larrison
9.
 Her Private Life (1929) Lady Helen Haden
10.
 Careers (1929) Hélène Gromaire
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

1913:
Worked as model and film extra (dates approximate)
1917:
Debuted in "Ziegfeld Follies" and "Midnight Frolics"
1921:
First starring film role, in "Get-Rich-Quick Wallingford"
1926:
Had huge success as Douglas Fairbanks' leading lady in color film "The Black Pirate"
1929:
Made talkie debut in "Careers"
1933:
Last starring film, "Blondie of the Follies"
1934:
Sued by actress Ruth Roland, who was bitten by Dove's dog (Roland won $25,000)
:
Turned down role of Belle Watling in "Gone With the Wind"
1962:
Won jingle contest for film "Gidget Goes Hawaiian" and made cameo appearance in "Diamond Head"
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Eastman-Gaines Business School: New York , New York -

Notes

"I was so glad for the name because one counters the other. Dove takes the boyishness out of Billie, and Billie takes the sweetness from Dove. It was a short name, and when you put it on the marquee you had Billie Dove there and still had room for the title of the picture. It wasn't like Helen Twelvetrees." --Billie Dove quoted Classic Images, June 1994.

On her marriage to Irving Willat, director of her film "All the Brothers Were Valiant": "All the way out there [to location] and all the way back and between scenes, all he would say was, marry me, marry me, marry me, marry me. That's all I heard, and we were gone for an entire month. Finally, I said yes just to get him to shut up." --From Classic Images, June 1994.

"Lois Weber was so wonderful, that if I had my say in those days the way they do today, I would have had it in my contract that she would direct all my pictures. I thought that much of her. There was an understanding there, and she was so simple to work with." --Dove quoted in Classic Images, June 1994

On her retirement: "I was still in my twenties. I thought I had attained everything I wanted to attain, and I wanted to do like other people. I wanted a family. I had seen some of the other girls try to hang onto their careers after they had started to slide. I vowed that would never happen to me."

Companions close complete companion listing

husband:
Irving Willat. Director. Married in 1923; divorced in 1930; died in 1976.
companion:
Howard Hughes. Producer, aviator, businessman. Together 1929-32; died in 1976.
husband:
Robert Kenaston. Oil man. Married in 1933 until his death in 1973.
husband:
John Miller. Architect. Briefly married in 1973.
VIEW COMPLETE COMPANION LISTING

Family close complete family listing

father:
Charles Bohny. Born in Switzerland; moved to USA in 1890s.
mother:
Bertha Bohny. Born in Switzerland; moved to USA in 1890s.
brother:
Charles Bohny. Cinematographer. Older.
son:
Robert Kenaston. Born in 1934; deceased.
daughter:
Gail Kenaston. Interior decorator. Adopted in 1937; formerly married to actor Paul Bertoya and executive Merv Adelson; survived Dove; died on February 15, 1999.
grandson:
Gordon Kenaston. Survived her.
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

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