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Kaye Brinker (Mar 29. 1914 - Nov 5. 1991)
Sister: Mary Brinker Post (writer, 1906 - 1966)*
Marriages:
 
(1) Hansen (1933- abt. 1936)
      Daughter:
      Anya L Petar Hansen (Flesh), dancer and
      choreographer (Jun 29. 1933 - Jan 19. 2008)
(2) Alvan Summerfield, Promotional manager for
     
Collier magazine (Jun 16. 1938 - Aft. 1940)
(3) Manfred B. Lee (Jul 4. 1942 - April 3. 1971,
      his death) Children:  Christopher Rebecca 'Kit',
      Anthony Joseph 'Tony', Manfred Bennington Jr.
      'Man'; Rand Benjamin (Mar 18. 1951- ),
      Jeffrey Robert (Mar 1.1954 - Jan 5. 1990)
      Stepchildren (Manfred - Betty Miller):
      Patricia Lee Caldwell, Jacqueline Lee.
Catherine Fox Brinker
 
Catherine Fox Brinker was born and raised in King County, Seattle (Washington) as daughter of Seattle pioneers Robert Hugh Brinker and Millicent Fox. She had an older sister Mary.
Her father line had been in law and in banking. Her great-grandfather Otis W. Brinker, who lived in Berino, had actually been a circuit judge in New Mexico in the 1880s.
Her father Robert abandoned the family when she was 6. Kaye was called Bobby by her mother because her mother wanted a boy not a girl. At a very early age she took up acting becoming a stock player at the age of 12! (Drama gal at KOMO, Seattle). Despite being a hell raiser in high school she was also a very good student, but they pulled her out of high school when she was a sophomore. She would go to work, she would have been 15 going on 16. She never went back to school, entirely self-educated she was brilliant as intelligent.

Reportedly she worked a junior journalist on the Seattle Times, the youthful "cub" decided writing would be her career. However, after a taste of acting with a local stock company, her heart was set on theatre. Undecided as to which career to pick, Kaye followed one then the other, and finally, decided to eat her cake and still have it, combined both.

Multitalented she had several jobs (radio writer, director, announcer, monologist, actress) during her career in both Chicago, N.Y. and Hollywood area.
In 1932-33, aged 19, she got pregnant and married promptly, she and her husband lived in Laurel Canyon, near Hollywood. On June 29. 1933 her daughter Anya Petar Hansen was born.
In 1933 Millicent Brinker moved from Seattle to Ellensburg to become house mother at the University. This allowed Kaye to participate in some student performances on campus.

She started off briefly in the movies. The only performances known are as (uncredited) guest in Riddle Ranch (1935) and as Cherry Millett in the Western Desert Guns (1936). Before starting in radio she reportedly was a production manager for Harold Lloyd's pictures.

Mostly playing the other woman she was mostly found in theatre and radio. Reportedly she entered radio playing opposite Don Ameche.
 In 1935 she had the enviable position of leading lady for Walter Hamden at the Pasadena Playhouse in the tryout of a recent play by Flavin, Achilles Had a Heel whilst playing in productions at the Playbox, a Los Angeles theater, which catered to a wealthy patronage.

In 1936 she appeared in a play opposite Lesley Howard in Ferenc Molnar's The Guardsmen which was broadcast over the Columbia network. Miss Brinker was complimented very highly by Mr. Howard after their performance. He said that she was a real actress, with true ability, and a marvelous voice. Kaye once said that "her mother was her worst critic. "But," said Mrs. Brinker, "the telegram which I sent her after the broad cast will certainly leave no doubt in her mind as to how proud I am." In  June 1936 Millicent came to live with Kaye to care for her three-year old child while she is in the east.
 

In Chicago, a new adventure serial, Drums made it's debut on Jan 14, 1936. Written by Vera Oldham of Chandu, The Magician fame, the production was described as rapid-moving drama with a mixture of mystery, human interest and exotic atmosphere. In addition to William Farnum, veteran star of the stage and screen, the cast included Kaye Brinker, Myra Marsh, Bill Royal, Cy Kendall, Carlton Kadell, Louise Larabe,... . J. Donald Wilson was the narrator. Felix Mills provided incidental music.
Kaye Brinker, who was claimed as an interesting and promising discovery of William Farnum's certainly was gifted with a charming voice, which added considerable romantic interest to this mystery drama which could be heard four nights a week. According to the papers her performances in the first series of Drums were so successful that she was immediately whisked off  to New York and a big Broadway contract on its completion and so by September 1937 her place on Drums was filled by Sally Creighton. In reality Kaye was working on Broadway since 1936 .

Directed by John Hayden and produced by A. H. Woods, the original Broadway production of the Ayn Rand play Night of January 16 opened September 16th, 1935 and ran for 283 performances until April 4, 1936 at the Ambassador Theatre in New York City. After which it took 'to the road' (Selwyn Theatre,...). By September 1936 it had Kaye Brinker playing "Karen Andre," "the penthouse siren with an emancipated soul". Miss Brinker holds the distinction, unique for a leading woman in a dramatic production of not knowing the ending of her role when she goes on the stage for each performance. Her fate is decided each night by a jury chose from the audience. About half the time she is "guilty" and the other half "not guilty."


On November 19, 1936 a broadcast named Sears - Then and Now (WJSV) featured Guy Kibbee, Kaye Brinker and Hoagy Carmichael, composer of popular songs.
Starting in June 1936 Modern Cinderella aka Broadway Cinderella aired five weekdays on WGN Chicago (later CBS), in February of 1937 Kaye joined the cast.

 
Kaye Brinker as "Karen Andre" in "The Night of January 16" (1936).Picture taken for "The Night of January 16" a play from 1936 with Kaye Brinker.Kaye Brinker as "Karen Andre" in "The Night of January 16" (1936).
Above: Kaye Brinker as "Karen Andre" in
The Night of January 16 (1936).
 

Teamed with Milton Charles, veteran theater organist, Kaye Brinker, stage actress and monologist, makes her radio debut as star of her own program, A Lady Lives, over WBBM. They were heard Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. (Radio Daily, Wednesday March 24, 1937).

On May 15. 1937 Kaye Brinker was referee in a Northwestern and De Paul debate: "Should Woman Have a Career?" (WBBM)

From May to September 1937 Kaye Brinker's did a program on WBBM for Commonwealth Edison which was called Every Woman. Kaye was a monologist, who wrote her own humorous sketches. Reportedly three year old Anya's bright sayings and antics furnish inspiration for many an idea on Kaye's Every Woman.

Kaye Brinker, Clyde Lucas, the bandsman and Franklyn McCormack of Poetic Melodies, guested on Eddie Thompson's Behind the Mike (Dec 1937). Kaye was also reading the commercials on Wrigley's Poetic Melodies.

She retired as production research director at CBS-WBBM in Chicago when she started with Manhattan Mother, a script show on a five-times-a-week basis (Jun 1937/ Mar 27. 1938 - April 5. 1940) in which both she and Margaret Hillas played Pat. Dan Sutter and Louise Fitch (Dale) were the other main protagonists. Patricia Locke (née Dwyer), gave up a career to raise her daughter, Dale, in New York. When the originating point of the series shifted from Chicago to New York Kaye resumed her part there.

 
"Manhattan Mother" with Arnold Moss and Kaye Brinker, WABC-CBS Radio Studio
Members of radio's newest mother and daughter team are Kaye Brinker and Louise Fitch, stars of WBBM's "Manhattan Mother" serial, heard Mondays through Friday from 10:45-11:00 p.m. (Seymour Photo.) (June 27.1937)Talented young monologuist whose weekly program "True to Life", is heard over WOR each Sunday afternoon. Miss Brinker portrays anything from a giddy young debutante to an elderly schoolmarm.
Top: Manhattan Mother with Arnold Moss and Kaye Brinker, WABC-CBS Radio Studio
Above left: AIR TEAM: Members of radio's newest mother and daughter team are Kaye Brinker and Louise Fitch, stars of WBBM's
Manhattan Mother serial, heard Mondays through Friday from 10:45-11:00 p.m. (Seymour Photo.) (June 27.1937)
Above middle and right: Talented young monologuist whose weekly program
True to Life, is heard over WOR each Sunday afternoon. Miss Brinker portrays anything from a giddy young debutante to an elderly schoolmarm. (1939)
 

In fact Kaye made her last Chicago appearance over at WGN/Mutual Broadcasting System with Reese Taylor and Audrey McGrathy in drama of theater Curtain Time, (The Herald Statesman, Yonkers, N.Y. Friday, September 2, 1938) The episode called "Retake," was a comedy based on the atrical activities in Manhattan, by Russell Huckins.

Kaye Brinker and Alvan Sommerfield, promotion manager for a national magazine (Collier) were married by Judge Edward B. Casey of the Municipal court Chicago in the Sherman hotel on June 16. 1938.

In 1938 Kaye was the head of the audition committee and in charge of production research. In order to judge the artist without being swayed by their personal appearance, the audition committee often sat in a special lounge, remote from the studio, and the voices are piped over. While the judges relax upon comfortable chairs and couches they make notations on the talent. In order to avoid the criticism that sex appeal is often the deciding factor in audition, WBBM assigns women staff members to talent of the same sex. "It's pathetic," Kaye Brinker commented on the vocalists, "but either they have beautiful voices and they can't express their souls or they know how to put their feelings across perfectly and they haven't the instrument with which to sing. And on the rare occasions when they have both, they're utterly lacking in that certain something that makes for box office appeal."

Kaye was hostess in a show called True to Life which ran from 1939 to 1940. Creator of clever monologues which are "True to Life," the young monologist Kaye Brinker wrote and acted her own programs for a large group of enthusiastic listeners.

Kaye is still best known for her "Virginia Dare Wine/Tobacco" radio commercials in the 1940s.  At that time she got hundreds of fan letters from servicemen all over the world.  The 1940 add below for Russeks Persian Lamb Fur Coats shows Kaye "fighting" the traditional female role pattern. We learn that she not only writes her own script but also directs them and even acts in them... which leaves her "very little time for shopping". An other article which also praises her many activities assured it's readers "She can, however, cook.  'Manfred loved good food,' she related."

 
1940 Add with Kaye Brinker for Russeks Persian Lamb Fur Coats.
Above: 1940 Add with Kaye Brinker for Russeks Persian Lamb Fur Coats.
 

In March 1940 she had to undergo surgery due to appendicitis. During her hospitalization she was replaced in Manhattan Mother by Marge Anderson.

In 1940-41 there was a series called We The Abbotts, about an average American family living in Middledale and struggling to remain financially solvent, in which Kaye  appeared as Isabel Kenyon next to John McIntire, Betty Garde,...

In the 1940 census she's reported to be living in Darien Town, Connecticut with her husband Alvan Summerfield, whom she married two years earlier,  daughter Anya Hansen and her mother Millicent. Again this 2nd marriage didn't last long...

By then she was known for her work in Amanda of Honeymoon Hill and in the Johnny Presents series and she took up a role in the popular Mr. District Attorney  "The Case Of The Man In Black" (Aug 5. 1941), ... .

On Aug 30. 1941 Kaye made her Broadway debut with Gladys George in Distant City. The play was meant to be one of the highlights of the legitimate season. Although everybody seemed to think that young Kaye Brinker was one of the discoveries on Sep 3. 1941 she was replaced by Gertrude Flynn. No reasons issued...

Kaye also had a regular role in Our Gal Sunday (as Barbara Hamilton). "Can this girl from a little mining town find happiness as the wife of a wealthy and titled Englishman?" (Oct 1941).
Kaye played a writer on Joyce-Jordan - Girl Interne at CBS (Oct 1941).

 
CBS Radio actresses left to right, Kaye Brinker (plays Sheila Brand), Ethel Owen (portrays Dr. Molly Hedgerow) and Ann Shepherd (portrays Joyce Jordan, MD), knitting for the war effort. New York, NY. December 18, 1941.
Above: CBS Radio actresses left to right, Kaye Brinker (plays Sheila Brand), Ethel Owen (portrays Dr. Molly Hedgerow) and Ann Shepherd (portrays Joyce Jordan, MD), knitting for the war effort. New York, NY. December 18, 1941. The Show ran on CBS from 1938 to 1945.
 

Manny Lee, author of Ellery Queen, happened to visit the NBC studio during a rehearsal on April 1. 1942 and met Kaye Brinker, who was featured in the week's story.
The setting was a hotel and Manny walked into the lobby and there was a 'chaise' laid out in the lobby and she was lying on the "chaise". Dressed to the nines she had her midriff bared. Manny salivated instantly and he was besotted from that moment. She didn't know at the time that Manny and his cousin wrote the Ellery Queen books. Manny didn't want to tell her because he didn't want her to marry him "for his money". They began dating at once and after only three months of courtship, Kaye Brinker married Manny Lee, on July 4,1942.

During 1943 Manny and Kaye moved to a charming old rented house at 5 Canon St.,Norwalk (Conn.) where they lived with his two daughters by his first wife, Kaye's daughter (Anya) by her first husband and their own newborn daughter Christopher Rebecca.

Photo announcing "Romance" with Kaye Brinker (1943).

In May 1943 she played in Romance on WABC (New York) and CBS (picture right). Each week a popular love story was dramatized on this series. According to critic Wanda Marvin: " ... Altho her delivery is letter-perfect. Kaye Brinker's voice lacks the desired warmth ...

Another episode in the popular Mr. District Attorney awaited her on December 4. 1946 "The Case Of The Too Rich, Too Long" was a story about wealthy Mrs. Montgomery who tells her daughter Penelope to marry John Middleton or she'll be cut out of the will. Penelope is a Montgomery however, and Grandma Montgomery is soon murdered with a silver candlestick!

During the 1947-48 series Kaye Brinker stepped in to play Nikki Porter in The Adventures of Ellery Queen. Seems only right since her son Rand B.Lee conveyed: "... many of the femme fatale in the Queen books from the early Forties onward were modeled after my mother...". The radio series came to an end and the family returned to the East Coast making home in suburban Connecticut, first in Westport later in Roxbury.

In the following years she combined this with several other roles on radio. 1948 had Kaye appearing as Ilse in Ancient Sorceries a tale of the supernatural and witchcraft in a small Welsh town with Paul Frees, Ann Morrison and William Conrad. (February 15, 1948). She also played in Escape's "The Grove of Ashtaroth" which was adapted for radio by Les Crutchfield. Again it had Paul Frees and William Conrad. Also appearing were Raymond Lawrence and Eric Snowden. (February 29, 1948)

Radio's The Whistler which aired on February 25. 1948 was called "Meeting On Tenth Street" and included Kaye in the cast.

Escape first presented "The Time Machine" on May 9, 1948.  H.G. Wells' classic story about two adventurers in the year 100,080 in the land of the Morlocks. The story was adapted for radio by Academy-award nominated screenwriter Irving Ravetch and was produced/directed by Norman MacDonnell. Eric Rolf starred as Fowler, Jeff Corey played Dudley and Kaye Brinker played Weena.

Another Escape presentation "She" was a well-done version of the classic about the beautiful woman who lives forever. The author was H. Rider Haggard and it was adapted for radio by Les Crutchfield with editorial supervision by John Dunkel. Norman MacDonnell produced and directed. Featured in the cast were Berry Kroeger, Lawrence Dobkin, Kaye Brinker, Ben Wright and Wilms Herbert
(July 11. 1948).

 
Gregory Peck at microphone with Kaye Brinker in radio's "Hitch-Hike Poker" (1948).
Above:  Gregory Peck at microphone with Kaye Brinker in radio's "Hitch-Hike Poker" (1948).

Doing a radio play from September 16, 1948, film star Gregory Peck worked with Kaye Brinker on the play, "Hitch-Hike Poker" part of Suspense  in a nearly bare studio. They create scenes which can become vivid in the imaginations of the listeners. It was the story of a war veteran hitchhiking home for the weekend who is picked up by a friendly guy in a convertible. ...

In August of 1949 she starred with Jack Webb in an episode of The Whistler (CBS) called "The Eager Pigeon" (August 28. 1949).

Dick Powell starred in the Richard Diamond, Private Detective radio series as a rather light-hearted detective who often ended the episodes singing to his girlfriend, Helen (Virginia Gregg). The series began airing on NBC on April 24, 1949, and continued until December 6, 1950. The shows were written by Blake Edwards and Kaye appeared once in the excellent episode "Clothes Make The Killer" (10/22/49) (Jay Novello, Kaye Brinker).

Letter from Jason was adapted for radio by Seelig Lester, Merwin Gerard, and William N. Robson from the 1926 short story "Sunk" by George F. Worts. Frank Lovejoy appeared as Jason, Will Geer as Jeff, and Kaye Brinker as Ellen. William N. Robson produced and directed. (November 29, 1949).

In the late 40s Kaye contracted double lobar pneumonia, for which she was successfully treated with penicillin. At some point after 1948 Kaye stopped with acting. She remained influencing the Queen opus as this testimony by daughter Christopher Rebecca Lee Tate shows. Miss Lee said she did not enjoy reading her father's books because he drew too frequently on family friends. "My mother would use pet words and mannerisms that would frequently appear in his books." she said. "When I was a teen-ager it would wreck it for me. I'd be reading about this glamorous woman and then out would come one of my mother's phrases."

In an article in The Tragedy of Errors Rand B. Lee described his mother as "... Juno: passionately nurturing and vengefully possessive by turns. ..."
She loved children "I’ve seen moistly gleams in Kaye’s eyes which Kaye Brinker in an ABC promotional photo taken before May 1948. The silk jersey blouse with the hand-painted octopus was made for her by her sister-in-law, Rena S. Lee, designer.experience tells me usually precede a campaign to get me to agree to another kid." (Manfred B. Lee).
She also had a great love for plants and gardening which seems to be inherited by her son Rand. "...Of her many memories of those early days, Mother could always recall the plants that grew so luxuriantly in Seattle's cool, mild, moist climate. There were the usual things: roses and forget-me-nots, foxgloves and cowslips, pansies and daisies. There were calla lilies, which Mother loathed. There was a glossy-leaved madrone tree she adored, and there was Heliotrope. Mother spoke of it as a huge bush cascading with masses of purple flowers scented of vanilla and almond. The idea of it haunted me for years, but I never thought to grow some myself."
Above right: Kaye Brinker in an ABC promotional photo taken before May 1948. The silk jersey blouse with the hand-painted octopus was made for her by her sister-in-law, Rena S. Lee, San Francisco designer.
 
In 1950 Kaye had some health issues (pneumonia-chicken pox). After the birth of her youngest child, Jeffrey Robert, in 1954, she underwent a hysterectomy.
 
Lee and Kaye playing with the kids (1955).
Above: Lee and Kaye playing with the kids (1955).
 
Following the death of Manfred B. Lee, she and Jeffrey moved to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, in order to be near Kaye's oldest daughter, Christopher Rebecca and her husband. From Ft. Lauderdale Kaye and Jeffrey moved to Key West, Florida, where they were joined by Kaye's son Rand in the early 1980s. In the latter part of the 1980's Kaye and Jeffrey emigrated to the British Isles, living at first in England and later in Foilnamuck, Ireland, where Jeffrey died of AIDS in 1990. A year later,  having battled with alcoholism and depression for many years, Kaye Brinker passed away on Nov 5. 1991 in a hospital in Cork, Cork County, Ireland, due to the consequences of ethylism. 
 
Notes:

* Mary Brinker Post (1906-1966) was an American writer. She was born in Seattle in 1906. Mary Brinker Post attended Garfield High School and later married English teacher, newspaper editor and Episcopal minister, Harry Grant Post (1900-1954). Her bestselling novel, Annie Jordan (1948), was based partly on family and on careful research among the records of turn-of-the-century Seattle. She was also the author of Prescription for Marriage, A Novel (1952) and Matt Regan’s Lady (1955). Her short stories appeared in many magazines and in anthologies of outstanding modern writing. Additionally, she wrote for radio for many years. Mary Brinker Post and her husband eventually settled in Darien, Connecticut, where she died in 1966. Both she and her husband are buried at Center Cemetery in New Milford, Litchfield County, Connecticut.

All dates for movies are for the official US release.
All dates for TV programs are original first airdates.
All dates for (radio) plays are for the time span the actor was involved.

Facts in red still need confirmation.

Click on Uncle Sam if you think you can help out...!  Click if you think you can help out...!
Other references
(1) Radiogoldindex
(2) OTRRpedia
(3) The Montreal Gazette Oct 4. 1973
(4) Thanks to Rand B. Lee for providing details after 1954
(5) IMDb

(6) "Widowhood led to a thriving business" New York Times, 1972

Additional video & audio sources
(1) Old Time Radio Downloads

(2) Ellery Queen episode "One Diamond"


This actor profile is a part of Ellery Queen a website on deduction. The actor above played Nikki Porter in an Ellery Queen radio series. Click Uncle Sam if you think you can help out...!
Many of the profiles on this site have been compiled after very careful research of various sources. Please quote and cite ethically!

Page first published on Jan 24. 2015
Latest update May 8. 2022

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