The Story of Pert Kelton
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Pert Kelton

 
  Pert Kelton was an American stage and film comedienne, who played the stool pigeon in Mary Burns-Fugitive in 1935 and played Alice Kramden for the first few episodes of "The Honeymooners" television series.

Pert's obituary in The New York Times lists her birth as October 1907, but the Great Falls Tribune wrote in 1926 that she was born on May 17, 1909, to Ed (or Ned) and Susan Kelton on the Simms Ranch on Box Elder Creek east of Great Falls, Montana.

The Times said Pert made her debut in South Africa at the age of three, changing the program cards for her parents' act. ". . . after she became six they added her to their act, which was known as the 'Three Keltons.'"

At 17, "Pert Kelton, eccentric comedienne," was featured in a Broadway musical comedy, "Sunny," in 1926. In 1949, Pert provided the voices for all five women on the Milton Berle radio show. She played the sharp-tongued Irish widow in the film version of Meredith Willson's "The Music Man" in 1957.

She was married to the actor-director, Ralph Bell. They had two sons. She died October 30, 1968, in Westwood, New Jersey.


Pert's Family

Pert was the child of a vaudeville couple, Ed and Susan Kelton. They were married in 1894 when he was 32 (though he said he was 26 for the license) and she was 16. Their marriage license contains the following information:

  • Edme F. Kelton, 26, of Great Falls, Montana, and born in California, was the son of A.K. Kelton and Jennie S. Janvrin
  • Susan M. Croghen, 16, was born in Canada and was the daughter of Patrick Croghen and Susan Hehir
  • Edme and Susan were married November 27, 1894, by F.H. Riggin, pastor of the First M.E. (Methodist Episcopal) Church in Great Falls, Montana.

Gladys Kelton was born to Susan and W(?). Kelton on July 9, 1896, in Great Falls. Gladys, when she was about 16, was described "America's foremost lady xylophonist" in The Billboard.

Edme was the son of Alanson K. Kelton, a mariner born in Maine who moved his family to New York and England before they settled in California. Sixteen-year-old Edme appears with his family in the 1880 census for Oakland, California:

    Alanson K. Kelton, 49, mariner, born in Maine

Jenny S. Kelton, 39, wife and keeps house, born in Massachusetts

Children

Alanson W. Kelton, 21, clerk, born in New York

Milford C. Kelton, 18, seaman, born in England

Edme F. Kelton, 16, son at home, born in California

Chls. L. Kelton, 14, school, born in California

Harry K. Kelton, 11, school, born in California

Jenny Kelton, 3, born in California

In 1892, Edme was 30 and a theatrical manager, living with other family members at 756 Market Street in Oakland:

  • Charles L. Kelton, a letter carrier
  • Edme F. Kelton, theatrical manager
  • Harry Kelton, clerk for R.N. Getchnell
  • Mrs. Jennie S. Kelton
  • Milford G. Kelton, master mariner
  • William A. Kelton, cook
 

Sources

"Bright lights flash name of 'Pert' Kelton. Great Falls Girl is Broadway Star at Age of 17; Has role in 'Sunny,'" Great Falls Tribune, June 11, 1926

Census for Oakland, Alameda County, California, June 3, 1880.

Marriage License, Cascade County, Montana, No. 792, book 2, page 313.

Oakland city directory, 1892. Information provided by Oakland Public Library.

Susan L. Stetler, Editor, Almanac of Famous People (Detroit, Mich.: Gale Research Inc., 1989) Volume 2, p. 1072.

"Pert Kelton, Versatile Character Actress, Dead," The New York Times, Thursday, October 31, 1968.


Other Information

Pert Kelton Register

Keltons in Vaudeville

   
    Comments or additions may be emailed to Ed Kelton.
   
    ©2002 by Edward F. Kelton.
    New Page on January 8, 1998