The Short, Sad Tale of Allyn King
Allyn King was a beauty of the stage, a tragic figure whose career began and ended in Albany.
King was born in Winston-Salem, NC in 1899, and had relocated to Connecticut by adolescence. Discovered while singing in a cafe in New Haven, by age 14 she was singing and dancing in regional touring vaudeville acts.
In 1913, King first appeared in Albany at Proctor’s Theater in a revue called “The College Girls.” By the following year, she was performing as a singing comedian at New York’s Proctor’s Twenty-Third Street Theatre, and in 1915 as a comedian and dancer with Ziegfeld’s Top-O-The-Clock Review.
In September 1916, she replaced headliner Justine Johnstone after Johnstone quit as a result of Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr.’s refusal to let her boyfriend visit her dressing room. King would remain a Ziegfeld star for five seasons before moving on to Broadway plays.
From 1920-1926, the Allyn starred in “Ladies’ Night,” a hit comedy that had a run of 360 performances; and “Moonlight,” over a 174 run at the Longacre Theatre, as well as several lesser shows. She also appeared in one silent film, “The Fighting Blade” (1923).
Throughout her post-Follies years, King struggled to maintain the boyish figure in vogue at the time, resorting to dangerous fad diets and thyroid pills. The regimen took a toll on her, and her Broadway roles became fewer and farther between. She came to Albany in 1925, becoming a featured stock player with the Capitol Theatre Players.
The troubled star lasted here until 1927, when she nearly died of starvation and pills. She checked herself into a South Norwalk sanatorium, and spent two years in recovery.
Following her discharge, King went to live with an aunt in New York City. She began studying music, with aspirations toward a possible career in radio. Her despair, however, eventually got the better of her. On March 29, 1930, she jumped out the fifth floor window of her aunt’s apartment, leaving a note lamenting the fact that she would never return to Broadway. Miraculously, Allyn survived the fall with broken limbs and fractured skull from which her doctors were confident she could recover. Though she was alert and seemed to be in good spirits, she died of her injuries at 4:30 a.m. the next day, after relatives had left her bedside.
200 mourners attended her funeral; notably absent were her “friends” from Ziegfield or Broadway.
Allyn King’s sad tale was subsequently used as a cautionary example in a flurry of sensational magazine and newspaper articles about the perils of crash diets and/or the evil lures of show business. Eventually, even this notoriety faded, as the newspapers and the world forgot about Allyn King’s career, her demise, and eventually, her existence.
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