2015-01-30 / News

Historical society learns Jamestown connection to Three Stooges

By Rosemary Enright

Far left, Carrie Bates with the Three Stooges in “Tassels in the Air,” a 17-minute short made by the slapstick team in 1938. 
Courtesy of the Jamestown Historical Society Far left, Carrie Bates with the Three Stooges in “Tassels in the Air,” a 17-minute short made by the slapstick team in 1938. Courtesy of the Jamestown Historical Society Sometimes stories from Jamestown’s past lead far off the island. Such is the story of Carrie Bates, who was never a resident, but whose life has led others to look at Jamestown’s history.

The story begins with Dr. William Lincoln Bates, a member of Jamestown’s Carr family. In 1873, at the age of 17, Bates pleaded guilty to stealing from his uncle Isaac Carr’s house and was sentenced to three years in the Providence Reform School. He seems to have been an ideal “scholar.” He was pronounced “reformed” and released April 4, 1876.

Soon after his release, Bates married Rebecca Josephine Lewin, a fellow inmate at the reform school. She had been committed for “vagrancy” at age 14. They had two children: Carrie Lucinda, born in 1877, and William Penn, born in 1879. The Bateses divorced in 1884; 7-year-old Carrie stayed with her mother, and 5-year-old William Penn was raised by his father.

After his divorce, Bates studied electrotherapy. He established a sanitarium in Providence in 1893 and a summer sanitarium in Jamestown four years later. The Jamestown sanitarium, also known as Maplewood, was open yearround after 1900. Dr. Bates ran the institution as part resort, part place for rest and recuperation, and part nursing home for the chronically ill. He became an influential and respected member of the community.

Dr. Bates seems never to have taken an interest in his daughter, although for a short time in 1918, Carrie and her brother shared a house in California. William Penn returned to Jamestown in the 1920s, and for several years before his father’s death he managed the sanitarium. When Bates died in 1932, his will left the sanitarium to his wife, Martha Boyce, whom he had married in 1895, and his son. He was effectively disinheriting his daughter. Carrie contested her father’s will, demanding that she share in his estate. Her suit was unsuccessful.

Finding out more about the elusive Carrie was difficult. She and her mother evidently had not stayed in Rhode Island. Perhaps she grew up in New York City where she married Joseph M. Keatinge in 1889. Keatinge was a widower with four children, and he and Carrie had four more – two boys and two girls. The family moved west, first to Idaho and then to Portland, Ore.

Sometime between 1914 and 1917, the Keatinges divorced, and Carrie and the children moved to San Diego and then to Los Angeles in 1919. She married again, this time to Earl A. Crouchley, a carpenter 15 years her junior whom she had known in Oregon. They divorced in 1936.

Following her second divorce, 59-year-old Carrie – using the stage name Kathryn Bates – embarked on a movie career. She was cast in bit parts and was usually not listed in the credits. She died at age 86 on Jan. 1, 1964, in Pasadena.

The historical society’s Sue Maden, who is interested in Dr. Bates’ background and career, constructed the basics of Carrie’s biography from public and family records. She was, however, unable to discover much about Bates’ acting career. One of Carrie’s uncredited roles recently aroused the interest of another organization wanting to know her history.

Morris “Moe” Feinberg, the brother of Larry Fine (one of the Three Stooges), founded the Three Stooges Fan Club in 1974. The fan club has its headquarters at the Stoogeum, a museum of Three Stooges memorabilia in Ambler, Penn. It publishes a quarterly newsletter filled with rare photos, news items, interviews and trivia. Its annual meeting near the Stoogeum brings together Stooges relatives, supporting actors, impersonators and fans.

Members of the club, led by Gary Lassin and Frank Reighter, set out to identify all the bit players in Three Stooges movies. Last year, Ryan Fay found a still photograph on eBay of four women in the Three Stooges short film “Tassels in the Air.” The women in the photo were identified as Gertrude Astor, Kathryn Bates, Bess Flowers and Symona Boniface. Brent Seguine, another member of the team, confirmed that it was, indeed, Kathryn Bates in the picture. Until then, the group had no idea that Bates had appeared with the Three Stooges.

Reighter researched the actress and uncovered material online about Carrie Bates, but still had a few questions. Everywhere he looked he came across references to Maden as a researcher interested in the Bates family. He got in touch. Maden has provided him with information about Carrie’s father and family, and the fan club has given us the accompanying picture of Kathryn Bates, as well as a list of movies in which she appears: “Girl of the Ozarks” (1936), “The Texas Rangers” (1936), “Tassels in the Air” (1938), “Arrest Bulldog Drummond” (1939), “Boy Trouble” (1939), “Unmarried” (1939), “Grand Jury Secrets” (1939), “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” (1939), “Parole Fixer” (1940), “The Quarterback” (1940), “Birth of the Blues” (1941), “Hands Across the Rockies” (1941), and “The Green Years” (1946). In all but “Unmarried” she is uncredited.

You can watch the 17-minute “Tassels in the Air” at Hulu.com.

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