|Born||April 4, 1892|
Helena, Montana, U.S.
|Died||March 8, 1965 (aged 72)|
Hollywood, California, U.S.
(19-1926; his death)
Esther Howard (4 April 1892 – 8 March 1965) was a stage and film character actress who played a wide range of supporting roles, from man-hungry spinsters to amoral criminals, appearing in 108 films in her 23-year screen career.
Howard was born in Helena, Montana, in 1892 and made her Broadway debut in 1917 in a play called Eve's Daughter, which was not a success. She continued to appear regularly on Broadway for the next twelve years, performing in comedies and musicals, including the hit shows Wildflower (1923) and The New Moon (1929), which was her final Broadway production.
In 1930, Miss Howard was still slender and beautiful when she changed her focus to making movies, appearing in a Vitaphone comedy short, The Victim (1930). From that point until her retirement in 1952, she worked regularly – at least one film she appeared in was released every year. She was often cast as an oversexed dowager, a decrepit old hag, and occasionally, a glamorous society dame. Known for her versatility and expressive face, notable among her many roles were the gorgeous Miss Prescott in Meet the Mayor (1932), frowsy Jessie Florian in Raymond Chandler's Murder My Sweet (1944), an aunt who has a crush on Oliver Hardy in Laurel and Hardy's The Big Noise (1944), diner waitress Holly in Detour (1945), bawdy Filthy Flora in Dick Tracy vs. Cueball (1946), the determined Mrs. Kraft out to solve a murder in Born to Kill (1947), and as Kirk Douglas' mother in Champion (1949). Miss Howard's lovely singing voice was used to ghost sing (dub in) for bigger-name stars who had no singing talent, but she never sang onscreen for herself.
Beginning in the early 1940s, Howard was part of Preston Sturges' unofficial "stock company" of character actors, appearing in seven films written and directed by Sturges. From 1937, Howard was a regular player in short-subjects produced at Columbia Pictures, where she was frequently cast opposite comedian Andy Clyde. Her last film was a Columbia comedy short, Caught on the Bounce (1952), in which she played Joe Besser's aunt.