The Wonderful Katherine Kath

Katherine Kath Mini-Biography

Katherine Kath as La Goulue

Katherine Kath nee Lily Faess (Rose Marie Nelly Faess) was born in Berck Plage, Picardy, France in 1920 and was the fifth child to parents Adrien Faess and Alix Caserbo. Katherine, then known as Lily was very ambitious as a child and worked very hard with the support from her family to become the top ballet dancer in her class and achieved stage recognition very quickly.

Lily trained seven hours a day for ten years to become a Prima Ballerina at the Theatre du Chatelet in Paris, but due to an ankle injury and with medical advice was forced to give up the ballet to avoid permanent damage, much to Lily's disappointment.

As a result of the injury Katherine (Kath) moved into acting in the theatre and created a short sketch role of ‘Irma La Douce’ at the Caberet ‘’Chez Gilles’’ in Paris, a production by Grenier and Husneau (later brought to the screen by Billy Wilder starring Shirley MacLaine and Jack Lemmon in 1963). 
Katherine Kath had great success in the late 1940/50’s with a string of plays written by the highly acclaimed French writer Jean Anouilh (1910-1987), titles included Antigone’, ‘Invitasion au Chateau’ (Ring Round The Moon), ‘Le Diner De Famille’. These theatre productions were a roaring success in Paris at the time, at the Theatre Marigny and established Katherine Kath as an actress and played to sold out houses every night. Other plays included La Soif’ (1949) by Henry Bernstein (1876-1953) starring Jean Gabin (1904-1976), Claude Dauphin (1904-1976). Katherine took over the role that was created by Madeleine Robinson (1916-2004), La Petite Lily’(1951) starring Edith Piaf (1915-1963).    

Amongst the French films that Katherine appeared in around this time, were Captain Blomet 1947 starring Fernand Gravey, Gaby Sylvis. Le Cavalier de Croix-Mort’ 1948 starring Henri Nassiet, Madeleine Robinson.L’armoire Volante’ 1948 starring Fernandel, Toute la Famille était Là’ 1948 starring Jean Parédès, Jean Tissier, André Alerme. ‘Ainsi Finit la nuit’ 1949 starring Anne Vernon, Claude Dauphin, Henri Guisol. ‘Le Rideau Rouge’ 1952 starring Paul Barge, Michel Barsacq. 

In 1952 Katherine Kath was to land the unforgettable role as La Goulue in John Huston’s Moulin Rouge’, starring alongside José Ferrer (1912-1922),  Zsa Zsa Gabor(1917-), Suzanne Flon (1918-2005), Colette Marchand (1925-) and Muriel Smith (1923-1985). John Huston’s Associate Producer on Moulin Rouge was Jack Clayton (1921-1995) whom Katherine would later marry. 

After ‘Moulin Rouge’ Katherine returned to Paris to star in Le Dortoir Des Grandes’ 1953 starring Jean Marais (1913-1998) , Oh No, Mam’zelle’ 1954 starring Fernandel (1903-1998), Pier Angeli (1932-1971). La Madone des Sleepings’ 1955 starring Giselle Pascal (1921-2007), Erich von Stroheim (1885-1957).


Other films include A Touch of the Sun’ 1956 starring Frankie Howerd, Dennis Price. ‘Anastasia’ ‘1956 starring Ingrid Bergman, Yul Brynner, Helen Hayes. These Dangerous Years’ 1957 starring George Baker, Frankie Vaughan, Carole Lesley. The Man Who Wouldn’t Talk’ 1958 starring Anna Neagle, Anthony Quayle, Zsa Zsa Gabor. Subway in the Sky’ 1959 starring Van Johnson, Hildegard Neff. Fury at Smugglers Bay’ 1961 starring Peter Cushing, John Fraser. Gigot’ 1962 starring Jackie Gleason, directed by Gene Kelly. Aliki My Love’ 1962 starring Aliki Vougiouklaki, Wilfred Hyde-White, Jess Conrad. The Magnificent Showman’ (Circus World)1964 starring John Wayne, Rita Hayworth, Claudia Cardinale. Mary Queen of Scots’ 1971 starring Vanessa Redgrave, Glenda Jackson. 


Katherine Kath has also appeared in many television series throughout her career, (these can be viewed on the'Films & T.V. of Katherine Kath' page)One of her most memorable T.V. appearances was playing the party host Madame Engadine in the cult 1967 T.V. series 'The Prisoner' (A,B and C) starring Patrick McGoohan and Colin Gordon.


In 1983 Katherine Kath appeared in a stage production called Little Lies’ written by Joseph George Caruso at the Wyndham’s Theatre, London starring John Mills. This play ran from July 1983 until February 1984, then the play moved to Canada for a period of time.


Katherine Kath retired in 1987, a great dancer and actress, her body of work speaks for itself . A true great, a true talent.


©N.Hall 2011


                                                         Sadly, Katherine Kath passed away on 17th November 2012.  

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