Billie Dove

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Billie Dove
Billie Dove The Blue Book of the Screen.jpg
Publicity photo of Dove from The Blue Book of the Screen (1923)
Born Bertha Bohny
(1903-05-14)May 14, 1903[1]
New York City, New York, U.S.
Died December 31, 1997(1997-12-31) (aged 94)
Woodland Hills, California, U.S.
Other names Lillian Bohny
Occupation Actress
Years active 1918-1932 (brief reappearance in 1962)
Spouse(s) Irvin Willat
(m.1923-1929; divorced)
Robert Kenaston
(m.1933-1970; his death); 2 children
John Miller

Billie Dove (May 14, 1903 – December 31, 1997) was an American actress.[2][3]

Early life and career

Dove was born Bertha Bohny in 1903 to Charles and Bertha (née Kagl) Bohny, Swiss immigrants. As a teen, she worked as a model to help support her family and was hired as a teenager by Florenz Ziegfeld to appear in his Ziegfeld Follies Revue. She legally changed her name to Lillian Bohny in the early 1920s and moved to Hollywood, where she began appearing in silent films. She soon became one of the most popular actresses of the 1920s, appearing in Douglas Fairbanks' smash hit Technicolor film The Black Pirate (1926), as Rodeo West in The Painted Angel (1929), and was dubbed The American Beauty (1927), the title of one of her films.

She married the director of her seventh film, Irvin Willat, in 1923. The two divorced in 1929. Dove had a huge legion of male fans, one of her most persistent being Howard Hughes. She had a three-year romance with Hughes and was engaged to marry him, but she ended the relationship without ever giving cause. Hughes cast her as a comedian in his film Cock of the Air (1932). She also appeared in his movie The Age for Love (1931).

Other interests

She was also a pilot, poet, and painter.[4]

Early retirement

Following her last film Blondie of the Follies (1932), Dove retired from the screen to be with her family. She next married wealthy oil executive Robert Alan Kenaston in 1933, a marriage that lasted for 37 years until his death in 1970. The couple had a son, Robert Alan Kenaston, Jr., who married actress Claire Kelly in 1961-1963 and died in 1995 from cancer, and an adopted daughter, Gail. She later had a brief third marriage to architect John Miller, which ended in divorce in the 1970s.

Last years/death

Aside from a brief cameo in Diamond Head (1963), Dove never returned to the movies. She spent her retirement years in Rancho Mirage before moving into the Motion Picture & Television Country House and Hospital in Woodland Hills, California where she died of pneumonia in 1997, aged 94.[5]

She is interred in the Freedom Mausoleum, at Forest Lawn Glendale.


Dove has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame located at 6351 Hollywood Blvd. Jazz singer Billie Holiday took her professional pseudonym from Dove as an admirer of the actress.[6]



  1. Other sources including the California registry of births and deaths cite 1900 or 1901 as her year of birth, although the 1910 census supports 1903 as her year of birth, as does her entry in the New York City Birth Registry.
  2. Drew, William M. Billie Dove profile, The Lady in the Main Title: On the Twenties and Thirties. Vestal Press, 1997.
  3. Wagner, Bruce. "Moving Pictures", Annals of Hollywood, The New Yorker. July 20, 1998, p. 54.
  4. Obituary, New York Times, January 6, 1998.
  5. "Billie Dove (1903–1997)", Retrieved February 17, 2015.
  6. Kliment, Bud. Billie Holiday. Holloway House Publishing, 1990, p. 29. ISBN 978-0-87067-561-4.

External links