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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Esther Howard
Esther Howard in The Sweetheart Shop.jpg
Howard in the Broadway musical The Sweetheart Shop (1920)
Born(1892-04-04)April 4, 1892
DiedMarch 8, 1965(1965-03-08) (aged 72)
Years active1917–1952
Spouse(s)Arthur Albertson
(19??–1926; his death)

Esther Howard (April 4, 1892 – March 8, 1965) was an American stage and film character actress who played a wide range of supporting roles, from man-hungry spinsters to amoral criminals, appearing in 108 films in her 23-year screen career.

Early life

Howard was born in Butte, Montana[1][2] on April 4, 1892 to Martha Esther Howard (née Boggs) and James Howard Jr., a music teacher who was employed as the conductor of the Butte Opera House.[1] Her paternal grandfather, James Howard Sr., was a prominent physician from California who had established a medical practice in Butte and Dillon, Montana, and at one time served as the coroner of Silver Bow County.[1] When Howard was five years old, her family relocated to Boston, Massachusetts, where her father had lived prior to relocating to Montana.[1] In Boston, Howard attended the Girls' Latin School.[1]


Howard began her stage career performing in stock theater in Lynn, Massachusetts,[3] before making her Broadway debut in 1917[4] in a play called Eve's Daughter, which was not a success.[5] Over the next twelve years she performed on Broadway in eleven more comedies and musicals, including the hit shows Wildflower (1923) and The New Moon (1929), which was her final Broadway production.[4]

In 1930, Miss Howard was still slender and beautiful when she changed her focus to making movies, appearing in a Vitaphone comedy short, The Victim (1930).[citation needed] From that point until her retirement in 1952, she worked regularly – at least one film she appeared in was released every year. She was often cast as an oversexed dowager, a decrepit old hag, and occasionally, a glamorous society dame. Known for her versatility and expressive face,[6] notable among her many roles were the gorgeous Miss Prescott in Meet the Mayor (1932), frowsy Jessie Florian in Raymond Chandler's Murder My Sweet (1944), an aunt who has a crush on Oliver Hardy in Laurel and Hardy's The Big Noise (1944), diner waitress Holly in Detour (1945), bawdy Filthy Flora in Dick Tracy vs. Cueball (1946), the determined Mrs. Kraft out to solve a murder in Born to Kill (1947), and as Kirk Douglas' mother in Champion (1949). Miss Howard's lovely singing voice was used to ghost sing (dub in) for bigger-name stars who had no singing talent, but she never sang onscreen for herself.[citation needed]

From 1940 to 1949, Howard was part of Preston Sturges' unofficial "stock company" of character actors, appearing in seven films written and directed by Sturges.[7] From 1937, Howard was a regular player in short-subjects produced at Columbia Pictures, where she was frequently cast opposite comedian Andy Clyde.[6] Her last film was a Columbia comedy short, Caught on the Bounce (1952), in which she played Joe Besser's aunt.[citation needed]


Howard died of a heart attack in Los Angeles, California, on March 8, 1965, aged 72.[8] She is buried in Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale, California.[citation needed]

Selected filmography


Other sources

  • D'Ambrosio, Brian (2019). Montana Entertainers: Famous and Almost Forgotten. Charleston, South Carolina: Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 978-1-439-66733-0.
  • Nissen, Alex (2014). Mothers, Mammies and Old Maids: Twenty-Five Character Actresses of Golden Age Hollywood. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland. ISBN 978-0-786-49045-5.

External links

This page was last edited on 27 July 2021, at 15:08
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