Kathleen Key - Rotten Tomatoes

Kathleen Key

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A distant relative, her publicity insisted, of Francis Scott Key, dark-haired, exotic-looking Kathleen Key (née Lanahan) memorably played Tirzah to Ramon Novarro's Ben-Hur in the gigantic 1925 MGM production. Having made her screen debut in, of all places, Australia, Key was picked by writer/producer/director Ferdiand Pinney Earle to play opposite a very young Novarro in a reportedly dazzling and imaginative screen adaptation of The Rubaiat of Omar Khayyam, which sat on a shelf for four years before enjoying a brief release in 1925 due to Novarro's newfound celebrity. (Sadly, the potentially interesting film, re-titled A Lover's Oath, apparently no longer exists.) Key was voted a 1923 Wampas Baby Star and went on to grace such popular films as the still extant The Sea Hawk and Revelation (both 1924), appearing as the Madonna in the latter. Ben-Hur should have made her a major star, but a highly public battle with comedian Buster Keaton -- he claimed she vandalized his dressing room after being refused a monetary loan -- virtually blacklisted her. Key played very minor roles in a couple of sound films, including a dance hall girl in Mae West's Klondike Annie (1936), but proved unable to pay a fine due to destitution when arrested for drunk driving in 1941. The former Wampas Baby spent her final years at the Motion Picture Country House and Hospital in Woodland Hills, CA.

Highest Rated Movies



No Score Yet Klondike Annie
  • Dance Hall girl
100% Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ
  • Tirzah
No Score Yet The Sea Hawk
  • Andalusian Slave Girl
No Score Yet The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse
  • Georgette

Quotes from Kathleen Key's Characters

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