Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Billie Dove (1903-1997)

The New York beauty who was born to Swiss immigrants started working in her early teens to help support her family. First as an artists model then at the age of 15 she was hired by Florenz Ziegfield to appear in his Ziegfield Follies Revue. Although unable to sing or dance Billie known for her stunning beauty, adapted well on stage and stayed with the revue from 1918 to 1920 before relocating to Hollywood.

Billie soon became one of the most popular silent screen actresses of the 1920's starring along side such leading men as Warner Baxter, John Gilbert, Lon Chaney and Tom Mix. But it was playing a Princess swept up by the dashing Douglas Fairbanks in the early Technicolor film "The Black Pirate" 1926 that launched her to stardom.  Billie was dubbed The American Beauty after appearing in the film with the same title in 1927.  During this time Billie married her first husband, silent film director Irvin Willat.  Mr.Willat directed Billie in some of her earlier films.

with Charles Starrett in "The Age Of Love" 1931

At the advent of sound Billie was still at the peak of her popularity and gaining many more admirers, the most famous being the eccentric inventor and multi millionaire Howard Hughes. They started an affair which led to Howard proposing. The relationship lasted just three years from 1929 to 1932 after Billies divorce from her first husband.  During this time Billie starred in two of Howard Hughes pictures "The Age Of Love" 1931 and "Cock Of The Air" 1932. It's been rumored that Billie ended her engagement with Hughes due to his long absences and growingly odd behavior.

click on autograph and photos from my collection for a closer view.

Billie starred in her last film in 1932 "The Blondie Of The Follies". She retired after a dispute with co-star Marion Davies regarding her role being cut at the influence of Marion's paramour William Randolph Hearst.  It was said that Marion was jealous over Dove outshining her on film and demanded her part cut. In 1933 Billie married for a second time to Robert Kenaston, a cattle rancher and oil executive. They had one son and an adopted daughter together before divorcing in 1970. Ms. Dove later married her third husband, architect John Miller which also ended in divorce.

Billie spent her retirement years in Rancho Mirage, CA before moving into the Motion Picture & Television's Country House and Hospital where she died from pneumonia at the age of 88.  Billie is buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery, Glendale, CA. Her grave site can be viewed HERE.

Interesting Billie Dove Facts:

She was a favorite of singer Billie Holiday who changed her first name from Eleanora to Billie after her Idol.

President Gerald Ford was a big fan of hers.

Her third marriage in 1975 lasted only three months.

She was a pilot a painter and a poet.

She was offered the role of Belle Watling in "Gone With The Wind" but turned it down.

Billies daughter Gail claims Howard Hughes paid her first husband $35,000 to divorce her.

Later in life Billie stated Howard Hughes was the only man that she ever really loved.

It was rumored that Florenz Ziegfields wife actress Billie Burke arranged for Ms. Dove to get work out west in Hollywood due to a burgeoning affair with her husband.

Until next time,


  1. Dear friend,
    Firt of all, would you excuse my bad english but I'm french. There is some miskakes in this article
    Billie dead in 94 years and not 88
    she's born like Berthe and not Lillian (She's change her name for Broadway and she take the first name of Lillian Russell.)
    And Haward Huges pays 325.000 $ in 1930 and not 35.000
    and finaly she's the widdow of her second husband, she don't divorce of hilm (it's her name of married woman on her grave)
    Best regards Celine Colassin (La saga des etoiles filantes)

    1. Anon,
      Thank you so much for responding and your English is just fine. I will check my notes and thank you for adding info. I want to insure that my bios are totally correct.
      Please come back often and check out my archives.
      See ya soon?