Kensico Cemetery

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Kensico Cemetery, located in Valhalla, Westchester County, New York, is home to many notable interments. The cemetery was founded in 1899 when the different New York City cemeteries were becoming full and rural cemeteries were being founded near the railroads that went in and out of the city. The property grew from 250 acres to a heft 600 acres before part of the land was sold to its neighbor, Gate of Heaven Cemetery, reducing the property to 461 acres. In 1953, the Sharon Gardens section was created for Jewish burials.

While many individuals from the entertainment industry are at rest here, there are also many acclaimed baseball players, authors, politicians, and more on the grounds. In fact the cemetery has a section specifically for members of the Actors’ Fund of America and the National Vaudeville Association. Sadly, show business is not lucrative to every single performer, so quite a few did pass away in abject poverty and are located in this particular section.

This article does not offer a full overview of each individual located here; rather, it is a “walk” through the grounds from my perspective, highlighting places and people of interest to me. At this point, I have not paid my respects to all of the individuals here and this list is far from exhaustive in covering the notable individuals here.

The first group of individuals profiled here are located in the Actors’ Fund and National Vaudeville Association sections. The individuals outside of these sections are covered after this group.

Genevieve Hamper and John Alexander (married)

Genevieve Hamper
(September 8, 1888 – February 13, 1971)
An American stage and screen actress. She often appeared on stage and in early silent films with her much older first husband Robert B. Mantell. After Mantell’s death she married actor John Alexander who died in 1982.

John Alexander
(November 29, 1897 – July 13, 1982)
An American stage, film, and television actor.

Annette Hoffman and Lylah Tiffany (shared plot)

Annette Hoffman (not pictured)
Actress, she appeared in the original Broadway productions of “Potash and Perlmutter, Detectives” (1926), “Fifty Million Frenchmen” (1929), “Whatever Goes Up” (1935), and “Summer Wives” (1936).

Lylah Tiffany
Actress. Known for All the Way Home (1963) and The Ed Sullivan Show (1948).

Ann Pennington and Margaret Bannerman (shared plot)

Ann Pennington
(December 23, 1893 – November 4, 1971)
An actress, dancer, and singer who starred on Broadway in the 1910s and 1920s, notably in the Ziegfeld Follies and George White’s Scandals.

Margaret Bannerman
(December 15, 1896 – June 14, 1976)
Born Marguerite Grand. A Canadian actress. She is known for her work in the English films The Gay Lord QuexLady Audley’s Secret and Hindle Wakes. She had a successful career on stage, appearing in revues and light comedy.

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Leo S. Arands and Cliff Hall (shared plot)

Leo S. Arands (not pictured)
Performer.

Cliff Hall (not pictured)
(October 4, 1894 – October 6, 1972)
An actor, known for The Prudential Family Playhouse (1950), Kraft Theatre (1947) and The Defenders (1961).

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Barbara Hunt (not pictured)
Performer.

Gordon Scott
(August 3, 1926 – April 30, 2007)
Born Gordon Merrill Werschkul. An American film and television actor known for his portrayal of the fictional character Tarzan in five films (and one compilation of three made-as-a-pilot television episodes) of the Tarzan film series from 1955 to 1960. Gordon Scott was the eleventh Tarzan, starting with Tarzan’s Hidden Jungle (1955). He was “discovered” poolside, and offered “a seven-year contract, a loin cloth, and a new last name.”

Elaine Eldridge and Dolly Dawn (shared plot)

Elaine Eldridge (not pictured)
Performer.

Dolly Dawn
(February 3, 1916 – December 11, 2002)
Born Theresa Maria Stabile. An American big band singer. She was vocalist with George Hall’s Hotel Taft Orchestra in the 1930s, and later had a solo career.

Irving “Sully” Boyar
(December 14, 1924 – March 23, 2001)
An American actor of Russian-Jewish descent.

Claudia McNeil
(August 13, 1917 – November 25, 1993)
An American actress known for premiering the role of matriarch Lena Younger in both the stage and screen productions of A Raisin in the Sun.

Guy Bridges Kibbee
(March 6, 1882 – May 24, 1956)
An American stage and film actor.

Jed Prouty
(April 6, 1879 – May 10, 1956)
An American film actor.

Marion H. Ferguson and Vivian Blaine (shared plot)

Marion H. Ferguson (not pictured)
Performer.

Vivian Blaine
(November 21, 1921 – December 9, 1995)
An American actress and singer, best known for originating the role of Miss Adelaide in the musical theater production of Guys and Dolls, as well as appearing in the subsequent film version, in which she co-starred with Marlon Brando, Jean Simmons and Frank Sinatra.

Jesse Block and Eva Sully (married)
Block and Sully were an American husband and wife vaudeville team who performed during the years 1926 to 1948.

Edward Franklin Albee, II
(October 8, 1857 – March 11, 1930)
He toured with P. T. Barnum as a ticket collector, then in 1885 he partnered with Benjamin Franklin Keith in operating the Bijou Theatre in Boston, Massachusetts. With the success of their business, it grew into the Keith-Albee theatre circuit of vaudeville theatres. Albee gradually took managerial control of Keith’s theatrical circuit. They were the first to introduce moving pictures in the United States.

Anne Bancroft Brooks
(September 17, 1931 – June 6, 2005)
Born Anna Maria Louisa Italiano, known professionally as Anne Bancroft, was an American actress, director, screenwriter, and singer associated with the method acting school, having studied under Lee Strasberg. Respected for her acting prowess and versatility, Bancroft was acknowledged for her work in film, theatre, and television. She won one Academy Award, three BAFTA Awards, two Golden Globes, two Tony Awards, and two Emmy Awards, and several other awards and nominations.

Sergei Vasilyevich Rachmaninoff
(April 1, 1873 – March, 28 1943)
A Russian composer, virtuoso pianist and conductor of the late Romantic period, some of whose works are among the most popular in the Romantic repertoire.

William B. Williams
(August 6, 1923 – August 3, 1986)
An American disc jockey on New York City radio station WNEW for over four decades. He hosted the popular program Make Believe Ballroom. Williams is particularly noted for coining the title “Chairman of the Board” for Frank Sinatra.

Henry Burr
(January 15, 1882 – April 6, 1941)
A Canadian singer, radio performer and producer. He was born Harry Haley McClaskey and used Henry Burr as one of his many pseudonyms, in addition to Irving Gillette, Henry Gillette, Alfred Alexander, Robert Rice, Carl Ely, Harry Barr, Frank Knapp, Al King, and Shamus McClaskey. He produced more than 12,000 recordings, by his own estimate, and some of his most popular recordings included “Just a Baby’s Prayer at Twilight”, “Till We Meet Again” with Albert Campbell, “Beautiful Ohio”, “I Wonder Who’s Kissing Her Now” “When I Lost You” and “In The Shade Of The Old Apple Tree”. A tenor, he performed as a soloist and in duets, trios and quartets.

Soupy Sales
(January 8, 1926 – October 22, 2009)
Born Milton Supman, known professionally as Soupy Sales. An American comedian, actor, radio/television personality, and jazz aficionado. He was best known for his local and network children’s television show Lunch with Soupy Sales (1953–1966), a series of comedy sketches frequently ending with Sales receiving a pie in the face, which became his trademark. From 1968 to 1975 he was a regular panelist on the syndicated revival of What’s My Line? and appeared on several other TV game shows. During the 1980s, Sales hosted his own show on WNBC-AM in New York City.

Robert De Niro (pre-planned)
(b. August 17, 1943)
Born Robert Anthony De Niro Jr. An American actor, producer, and director. He is a recipient of numerous accolades, including two Academy Awards, a Golden Globe Award, the Cecil B. DeMille Award, AFI Life Achievement Award, Presidential Medal of Freedom, and has been nominated for six BAFTA Awards, four Primetime Emmy Awards and four Screen Actors Guild Awards.

Vera Ellen Wang (pre-planned)
(b. June 27, 1949)
An American fashion designer based in New York City.

Peter De Rose
(March 10, 1900 – April 23, 1953)
An American composer of jazz and pop music during the era of Tin Pan Alley.

Billie Burke and Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr. (married)

Billie Burke
(August 7, 1884 – May 14, 1970)
Born Mary William Ethelbert Appleton Burke. An American actress who was famous on Broadway, on radio, early silent film, and subsequently in sound film. She is best known to modern audiences as Glinda the Good Witch of the North in the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer movie musical The Wizard of Oz (1939).

Florenz Ziegfeld
(March 21, 1867 – July 22, 1932)
Born Florenz Edward Ziegfeld, Jr., popularly known as Flo Ziegfeld. An American Broadway impresario, notable for his series of theatrical revues, the Ziegfeld Follies (1907–1931), inspired by the Folies Bergère of Paris. He also produced the musical Show Boat. He was known as the “glorifier of the American girl”. Ziegfeld is a member of the American Theater Hall of Fame.

Lou Gehrig
(June 19, 1903 – June 2, 1941)
Born Heinrich Ludwig Gehrig. An American professional baseball first baseman who played 17 seasons in Major League Baseball (MLB) for the New York Yankees (1923–1939). Gehrig was renowned for his prowess as a hitter and for his durability, which earned him his nickname “The Iron Horse”. He was an All-Star seven consecutive times, a Triple Crown winner once, an American League (AL) Most Valuable Player twice, and a member of six World Series champion teams. He had a career .340 batting average, .632 slugging average, and a .447 on base average. He hit 493 home runs and had 1,995 runs batted in(RBI). He still has the highest ratio of runs scored plus runs batted in per 100 plate appearances (35.08) and per 100 games (156.7) among Hall of Fame players. In 1939 he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame and was the first MLB player to have his uniform number (4) retired by a team.

David Sarnoff
(February 27, 1891 – December 12, 1971)
An American businessman and pioneer of American radio and television. Throughout most of his career he led the Radio Corporation of America (RCA) in various capacities from shortly after its founding in 1919 until his retirement in 1970.

Ayn Rand
(February 2 1905 – March 6, 1982)
Born Alisa Zinovyevna Rosenbaum. A Russian-American writer and philosopher. She is known for her two best-selling novels, The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, and for developing a philosophical system she named Objectivism. Educated in Russia, she moved to the United States in 1926. She had a play produced on Broadway in 1935 and 1936. After two early novels that were initially unsuccessful, she achieved fame with her 1943 novel, The Fountainhead. In 1957, Rand published her best-known work, the novel Atlas Shrugged. Afterward, she turned to non-fiction to promote her philosophy, publishing her own periodicals and releasing several collections of essays until her death in 1982.

Tommy Dorsey
(November 19, 1905 – November 26, 1956)
Born Thomas Francis Dorsey Jr. An American jazz trombonist, composer, conductor and bandleader of the big band era. He was known as the “Sentimental Gentleman of Swing” because of his smooth-toned trombone playing. His theme song was I’m Getting Sentimental Over You. His technical skill on the trombone gave him renown among other musicians. He was the younger brother of bandleader Jimmy Dorsey. After Dorsey broke with his brother in the mid-1930s, he led an extremely popular and highly successful band from the late 1930s into the 1950s. He is best remembered for standards such as “Opus One”, “Song of India”, “Marie”, “On Treasure Island”, and his biggest hit single, “I’ll Never Smile Again”.

Al Hirschfeld
(June 21, 1903 – January 20, 2003)
Born Albert Hirschfeld. An American caricaturist best known for his black and white portraits of celebrities and Broadway stars.

Danny Kaye and Sylvia Fine Kaye (married)

Danny Kaye
(January 18, 1911 – March 3, 1987)
Born David Daniel Kaminsky. An American actor, singer, dancer, comedian, musician, and philanthropist. His performances featured physical comedy, idiosyncratic pantomimes, and rapid-fire novelty songs.

Sylvia Fine Kaye
(August 29, 1913 – October 28, 1991)
An American lyricist, composer, and producer, and the wife of the comedian Danny Kaye. She and her future husband grew up within blocks of each other in Brooklyn, but they did not meet until 1939.

To this day, Kensico remains a beautiful location full of gorgeous art and scenery. It is well worth the visit should you find yourself in Westchester County.

About Annette Bochenek

Dr. Annette Bochenek of Chicago, Illinois, is an avid scholar of Hollywood’s Golden Age. She manages the Hometowns to Hollywood blog, in which she writes about her trips exploring the legacies and hometowns of Golden Age stars. Annette also hosts the “Hometowns to Hollywood” film series throughout the Chicago area. She has been featured on Turner Classic Movies and is the president of TCM Backlot’s Chicago chapter. In addition to writing for TCM Backlot, she also writes for Classic Movie Hub, Silent Film Quarterly, Nostalgia Digest, and Chicago Art Deco Society Magazine.
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