The star of late silent and early talkie pictures was born Barbara Klowtman on December 16, 1907, in Gadsby, Alberta, Canada. “Some sources have me younger; some have me older, but 1907 is the correct year. Also, I am tiny, 4 foot 11 inches!”
As to how she went from Canada to Southern California, “My parents came down here, to a better climate. I was considered a pretty child, and I think, in the back of their minds, they wanted to get me in pictures. They never admitted it, though. (Laughs) My parents sent my picture in to a beauty contest. I won the contest, a seven year contract with Universal. It was that simple.”
Her first picture, “Prowlers of the Night” (‘26) was a western. “Fred Humes was the star, and the director was Ernst Laemmle, the nephew of Carl Laemmle Sr. Everybody was a Laemmle at Universal in those days. (Laughs) It is so long ago, that Humes and Laemmle are about all I recall of the experience.”
Barbara’s second picture, “Flesh and the Devil”, soon followed. “That was a huge picture I did with Greta Garbo. I was the second lead, and I was treated royally. Universal loaned me out for that one, and most of the others I did away from their lot. ‘Flesh and the Devil’ was a great experience. It was nice.”
The following year, “No Man’s Law” (‘27) was released. “Rex the Wonder Horse was the star, everybody was afraid of Rex. They’d say, ‘Don’t get close to him.’ He was mean! So, you can bet I stayed clear of that animal!” Asked if it was filmed in Death Valley as often reported, Barbara recalls it wasn’t. “I did work at Death Valley and Lone Pine, but I don’t think it was on that one. Where we went, there were no hotels, so we had to sleep in tents! It was a deadly place!” James Finlayson played Barbara’s father. “He was a famous comedian in the silent days, but this wasn’t a funny part for him, nor for Oliver Hardy. In fact, I believe this film predated Hardy’s teaming with Stan Laurel. Mr. Hardy was not a funny man, off camera—nor on camera in this picture, for that matter.”
“No Man’s Law” is notorious for a nude scene involving Barbara, who runs naked, jumps in the water, and is lusted after by Oliver Hardy. “That wasn’t me. It was a double. Her name, I do not recall; I only know it wasn’t me! (Laughs)”
Barbara’s third western, “His Destiny”, was released in ‘28. “All I recall is Neal Hart was not only my leading man, but also the director. It is so long ago, I just cannot remember a lot about the movies.”
In 1932, Barbara married Harry E. Eddington. “He didn’t want me in pictures, so I eventually got out. However, I did keep my finger in for a number of years; my last picture was in ‘41, ‘Under Age’, with Nan Grey and Tom Neal. Harry died in ‘48.”
As a result of the marriage, Barbara’s last western was “Freighters of Destiny” (‘31) with Tom Keene. “I recall very little about Tom Keene.” This is understandable, as she did little in the picture with or without Keene.
As to her career in general, “I did a couple of pictures with Harold Lloyd (‘Welcome Danger’ ‘29 and ‘Feet First’ ‘30) as well as one with Gloria Swanson, called ‘Indiscreet’ (‘31). Gloria has a nude shower sequence in that one! (Laughs) I never wanted to be in pictures. That was my parents’ idea. I didn’t like movies. It was not what I wanted to do. I am not an exhibitionist!”
In more recent times, Barbara Kent was Mrs. Jack Monroe. “He died a few years ago; we were married 44 years. We were talked into moving to Palm Desert, where we could live year-round. We went there in July, and the heat was so unbearable! So, he looked around and came up with a home in Sequim, WA, closer to the top of the state than the bottom. I asked him, ‘Are you sure you want to live here, in this little town?’ and he did! So we spent the summers in Washington and the winters down in Palm Desert. Not Palm Springs, because that isn’t a nice town anymore. Maybe I shouldn’t say that, but it isn’t the same. Palm Desert is nice, though.”
As for any family, “I am the Last of the Mohicans! (Laughs) I have some second and third cousins in England, that’s all. I never had any children.” I play golf twice a week. I played today, in fact, and although it is January, it was quite warm today!”
Sadly, Barbara died in Palm Desert at 103 on October 13, 2011.
Barbara’s Western Filmography
Movies:Prowlers of the Night (‘26 Universal)—Fred Humes; No Man’s Law (‘27 Pathe)—James Finlayson; His Destiny (‘28 British Canadian Ltd./Paramount)—Neal Hart; Freighters of Destiny (‘31 RKO)—Tom Keene.