Gale Largey

Gale Largey holds a photo of Kathryn "Kitty" Moran, also known as Kathryn Crawford, and a copy of “Movie Classics,” a magazine that features information about her.

Wellsboro, Pa. — A new documentary film chronicling a Wellsboro native's rise to stardom will premiere at the Deane Center this June.

The latest work from Gale Largey, the film "Grit and Mirrors" covers the life and legacy of Kathryn "Kitty" Moran, also known as Kathryn Crawford, the daughter of a Wellsboro glassworker who went on to become a movie star, model, singer, and interior decorator.

There will be three showings of the film: 7:30 p.m. on Friday, June 2; 7:30 p.m. on Friday, June 9; and 8 p.m. on Thursday, June 15. 

All screenings will be in the Deane Center’s Coolidge Theatre at 104 Main Street in Wellsboro. Admission is by donation with the funds to be given to the Deane Center.

In the film, Anne Acker of Wellsboro plays the role of Kitty, and Kevin Thomas, owner of KC101, is the “Radio Man.”

Writer and director Largey performed all research for the film. Mark Polonia is the editor and Bernadette Chiaramonte provided the graphics.

“Many other local residents volunteered their talents for the production for voice-overs and provided assistance,” said Largey.

Kitty Moran was born in Wellsboro on October 5, 1908. Her mother divorced twice by the time Kitty was about eight years old, then was institutionalized. After being separated from her mother and spending some time in an orphanage, Kitty and her sister were reunited with their father and moved to Huntington Park, California.

As a teen in California, Kitty joined a church choir and gained some attention for her skill in singing soprano. Her life was uprooted again at age 15 when, deciding that she couldn't tolerate living with her stepmother, she eloped with her sister's boyfriend. The couple split quickly.

At age 20, Kitty began a relationship with film director Wesley Ruggles, who was twice her age. Ruggles was the director of the film "Cimarron." During this relationship, Kitty signed a contract with Universal Pictures and starred in her first film, "King of the Rodeo."

Kitty's relationship with Ruggles was short-lived, but her film career thrived from this point. She starred in several films alongside big-name stars like Buddy Rogers, Bing Crosby, Robert Young, Marie Dressler, Jimmy Durante, Carole Lombard, and The Three Stooges.

Kitty also played a starring role in the musical "The New Yorkers" on Broadway and was the first to sing the hit song "Love for Sale." She was replaced by Elizabeth Welch following public outrage over a white actress playing a sex worker. 

By 1936, Kitty's film career had slowed down, but she gained national attention again during a strange lawsuit involving her at-the-time abusive spouse. Her final film role was a part in the film "City of Missing Girls."

After she left her acting career, Kitty became a renowned interior decorator. She decorated the homes of clients like Mary Pickford and Barron Hilton and the Waldorf Astoria apartments of General Douglas MacArthur and President Herbert Hoover.

In 1970, Kitty married Ralph Parsons, and the couple enjoyed a happy life together until Ralph passed away in 1974. Kitty died of cancer in 1980, at the age of 72.

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This story was compiled by an NCPA staff reporter from submitted news. To see a list of our editorial staff please visit our staff directory.