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Katherine DeMille


B: June 29, 1911 in Vancouver, British Columbia
D: April 27, 1995 in Tucson, Arizona

Katherine DeMille began life as Katherine Paula Lester and was born into tragedy. Her father, Edward Gabriel Lester had been born in 1887 in South Ayrshire, Scotland and had moved to Canada. He served in the Central Ontario Regiment of the Canadian Army and held the rank of Lieutenant when he was killed on June 25, 1917 in France in World War One, four days before Katherine would turn six. He was just 30. Her mother, Cecile Bianca Bertha (Colani) Lester, who was Italian-Swiss and was terminally ill, traveled to California to find Katherine’s paternal grandparents but died of tuberculosis before she could contact them. Placed in a Los Angeles orphanage, the story of her sad life came to the attention of Constance Adams who was a director of the orphanage and the wife of the powerful Hollywood producer-director Cecil B. DeMille. Moved by the young girl’s plight they decided to adopt her. She became a member of a family that also included the DeMilles’ only natural child, Cecilia de Mille; another adopted child, John de Mille; and Richard de Mille, who was actually DeMille’s nephew. She grew up and went on to become an actress during Hollywood’s Golden Era. She was married to the actor Anthony Quinn from 1937 to 1965. Their very young son, Christopher, drowned in W.C. Field’s pool. In 1953 she accepted Quinn’s Oscar® win for Best Supporting Actor for his work in the 1952 film Viva Zapata when he could not attend. Katherine DeMille was 83 when she passed away in 1995 of Alzheimer’s disease.

Norma Shearer played Juliet opposite Leslie Howard in the 1936 film Romeo and Juliet. Katherine DeMille played Rosaline in the film, but was not included in the credits.