Biography

Willowy leading lady Karen Morley received most of her acting training at Pasadena Playhouse. Signed to an MGM contract in 1931, she distinguished herself in a series of offbeat roles, notably the defiant heroine in Mask of Fu Manchu (1932), the title character's foredoomed predecessor in Mata Hari (1932), and the mistress of the President of the United States in Gabriel Over the White House (1933). On loan to Howard Hughes, she was seen as gangster Paul Muni's "high-class" paramour in Scarface (1931); and at RKO, she was the much-despised blackmailer (and well-deserved murder victim) in The Phantom of Crestwood (1933). Too mannered and aloof to become an audience favorite, she nonetheless worked steadily on-stage and onscreen well into the late '40s. Her film career came to a sudden halt in 1951 when she invoked the Fifth Amendment before the House Un-American Activities Committee. Blacklisted from Hollywood, she unsuccessfully attempted to start a career in politics, then completely retired, refusing numerous entreaties to resume her film work once the blacklist had relaxed in the 1960s. Formerly married to director Charles Vidor, Karen Morley was later the wife of fellow blacklistee Lloyd Gough. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi