Born in Pine Bluff. AR, exotically beautiful Kay Linaker graced the silver screen in a wide variety of parts from the mid-‘30s to the mid ‘50s. In Technicolor epics like “Drums Along The Mohawk” to classics like “Kitty Foyle”, this multi-talented actress was a very welcome asset.
Many detective series films are among her credits, including “The Murder of Dr. Harrigan” (‘36—as nurse-detective Sally Keating), “The Last Warning” (‘38—the final in a trilogy of Bill Crane mysteries), “A Close Call For Ellery Queen” (‘42) as well as four Charlie Chan classics (“—In Monte Carlo”, ‘37; “—In Reno”, ‘39; “—Murder Cruise”, ‘40; “—In Rio”, ‘41). Kay was even the guilty party in one of them!
Her fans best remember her for Westerns—in particular Buck Jones’ “Black Aces” (‘37 Universal). “The only B-Western I ever made was ‘Black Aces’. It was a good part as parts in Westerns went,” Kay told us, “I did more than watch the hero ride off into the sunset. I actually crossed the Kern River on the old swing bridge. No one told me the weight of my body forced the boards to rise to meet my feet with each step. With the wind swinging the bridge from side to side, looking down at the Kern River forty feet below boiling over the rocks, holding my hat on my head (I had just taken it from one of the ‘heavies’ and it had no chin strap) and hanging onto the handhold cable—it was the longest block and a half I ever walked. Buck Jones was furious with the director, Les Selander. As a matter of fact, if I’m not mistaken, Les’ credit does not appear on the crawl. (Buck is credited as director/producer.—ed.) The stunt girl, Aline Goodwin, was furious. She was done out of a fat fee and felt it absolutely cruel to put me through such trauma. I heartily agreed—but the scene is effective. Buck Jones was one of God’s good gentlemen and an honor to the motion picture business.”
Kay continued, “In ‘Drums Along the Mohawk’ I played Mrs. DeMooth. When the Indians weren’t beleaguering Claudette Colbert, I was. My death, an arrow in the chest fired by world champion archer Howard Hill, was so grisly it had to be cut and I met my end at the hands of an Indian Brave who had rape on his mind. After John Ford did his final cut and went fishing off Baja, CA, with Fonda, Ward Bond, Arthur Shields and several others of the Ford company, Darryl Zanuck (fondly known as the white rabbit with the glass teeth) re-cut the film and destroyed the negative. This precipitated the row between Ford and Zanuck which culminated in Ford getting a completely re-written contract allowing him to do any number of films he chose away from the 20th lot. Working with John Ford was an experience. Everyone connected with the film was at his/her best—personally and performance-wise.”
Kay says, “‘Buck Benny Rides Again’ was a fine experience. Mark Sandrich was a gifted director and Jack Benny a fine gentleman. Jack was terrified of horses. When we did the runaway scenes on the mechanical horses we both got desperately seasick. In spite of my good scenes that ended on the cutting room floor, the picture was one of the most enjoyable I ever made. If ever an actor earned a halo as a human being, that person was Jack Benny.”
“Making ‘Men of Texas’ gave me a whole new respect for people who traveled by stage coach,” Kay laughs. “Two weeks in the coach itself and in the cutaway made me joyful I lived in the 20th Century. When I finally had my baby at the side of the road, Leo Carrillo said to me, ‘Kate, you’re the only woman in the world who ever was in labor for ten days and gave birth to nothing more than cold sweat.’ Again—Robert Stack and Carrillo were a delight to work with—Carrillo particularly gracious and gifted. I was very lucky. I worked consistently with fine, talented people. It was a fine way to make a living.”
An interesting postscript...Kay Linaker and her late husband, Howard Phillips, scripted episodes of many television shows in the ‘50s and ‘60s, including “Alcoa Theatre”. Kate Phillips (her nickname as well as her professional
Kay taught screen-writing at Keene State College in New Hampshire until her retirement in 2005 at 90. She earned the distinction of being the oldest college professor in New England.
Kay died at 94 in Keene, NH.
Kay’s Western Filmography
Movies: Black Aces (‘36 Universal)—Buck Jones; Drums Along The Mohawk (‘39 Fox)—Henry Fonda; Buck Benny Rides Again (‘40 Paramount)—Jack Benny; Men Of Texas (‘42 Universal)—Robert Stack.