Anita King (78), American racecar and stunt driver, actress, and thoroughbred racehorse owner, died

Monday 10th June 1963

Anita King (78), American racecar and stunt driver, actress, and thoroughbred racehorse owner, died. In 1915, King decided to put her automobile driving experience to the test and set out to become the first female to drive alone across the continental United States. With the backing of studio boss Jesse L. Lasky, and his newly formed Paramount Pictures, they got the Kissel Motor Car Company to provide her with a vehicle equipped with Firestone tires. Dubbed “The Paramount Girl,” amidst much publicity on August 25, she set out in her Kissel Kar from Paramount’s studio in Hollywood. The Los Angeles Times wrote, “There will be nobody with her at any time on the trip. Her only companions will be a rifle and a six shooter.” First heading north to San Francisco, King spent several days doing publicity appearances at the Panama-Pacific World’s Fair. With even more fanfare, and declaring that “if men can do it, so can a woman,” she headed east. After many promotional stops along the way, and coverage by major newspapers coast to coast, on 19 October, after forty-nine days on the road, King received a hero’s welcome in New York City, with one newspaper remarking she had arrived with California air in her tires. She used her fame to do charitable works and helped organize a recreation club for young girls trying to get a start in the film business. In 1918, when the U.S. had become involved in World War I, she made a national speaking tour on behalf of the war effort, driving alone across the southern part of the United States from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C. King appeared in fourteen films while at Paramount, including four with major star Wallace Reid, but in 1918 left to work with Triangle Film Corporation and other studios. She made her last film in 1919 and with the rapid changes in automotive technology plus new and more spectacular racing events, quickly faded from the public eye. Family members said she did not make it in the “talkies” because she had too low of a voice from years of cigarette smoking. Her first marriage was to James Stuart McKnight, a National Guard officer serving during World War I in Paris, France.[1] In the early 1930s, she married Thomas Morrison McKenna, a wealthy steelmaker. Widowed in the 1940s, she became part of the Hollywood elite, joining such others as Louis B. Mayer and William Goetz as owners of thoroughbred racehorses. In 1951, jockey Johnny Longden rode her colt Moonrush to victory in the Santa Anita Handicap.

Leave a Reply

365 Days Of Motoring

Recent Posts



I We have no wish to abuse copyright regulations and we apologise unreservedly if this occurs. If you own any of the material published please get in touch.