|It was several years later that Anita met the man who became her first and only husband, Timothy M. "Tom" McKenna, a steelman who was a cousin of the late industrialist, Andrew Carnegie. Theirs was apparently a happy marriage although they had no children. Widowed in the 1940s, the wealthy Mrs. McKenna in her later years concentrated on establishing new records, becoming well-known for her stable of thoroughbred horses. In 1951, one of her horses, Moonrush, won the $100,000 Santa Anita handicap. (28)
She continued to reside in Southern California and did not cut herself off from her cinematic past, appearing with Blanche Sweet and other early stars at a 1949 anniversary tribute for Cecil B. DeMille. Yet apparently she was never interviewed by film historians in later years about her career in silent films. Since she had long been out of the limelight, there was no occasion for the details of her early life to become public knowledge. Still, she remained close to her family for the rest of her life. Indeed, her oldest sister, Della, died in Los Angeles in 1946. Anita often returned to Michigan City, including on at least one occasion a family reunion. She also kept in touch with other family members through correspondence and remembered many of them in her will.
On June 10, 1963, at the age of 78, Anita King McKenna died of a heart attack in her Hollywood home at 431 S. Burnside Avenue. She was buried in Forest Lawn. (29) Although the bright lights of her early publicity had long since faded into the comfortable obscurity of her later years, Anita had achieved more than she could have dreamed. Coming from a humble background, she had overcome searing experiences. Her talent and beauty, buoyed by a daring, fearless nature, took her to early heights in a new art form and propelled her to undertake a remarkable feat never before attempted by a woman. At the same time, her generosity towards those experiencing hardships similar to her own caused her to initiate pioneering social work in the film industry. Having apparently attained it all, she suddenly vanished from the spotlight. Yet her legacy lives on and recently, a new, intensified interest in recovering the rich heritage of the past has brought her name back into focus. In his book, A Reliable Car and a Woman Who Knows It: The First Coast-to-Coast Auto Trips by Women, 1899-1916, Curt McConnell devotes a chapter to Anita, confirming once again that she was the first woman ever to drive a car unaccompanied across the continent. (30) Craig Harmon, founder and director of the Lincoln Highway National Museum and Archives, has included a section on Anita King's journey on his website at http://lincoln-highway-museum.org/King/King-Index.html. Indeed, her career exemplifies a historic transitional period in which the new cinema art and its stars, the heroes and heroines of a popular mass culture, began to influence the fashions and activities of millions of people, including women in their march towards equality. It is to be hoped that this new interest will lead archivists in the not-too-distant future to rediscover and restore the films of Anita King.
Copyright 2003 William M. Drew
Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 |
Chapter 7 | Chapter 8 | Chapter 9 | Chapter 10 | Endnotes
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