Henny Backus (Hennietta Backus)

Henny Backus

Henrietta Kaye was born in Brooklyn March 21, 1911. She studied sculpture at Cooper Union, but she preferred working in the theatre and appeared in Broadway musicals during the 1930s. Working as Henriette Kaye, she was a member of the Federal Theatre Project. Described by The New York Times as “a leggy redhead with a droll sense of humor”, she appeared in Orson Welles’s Project 891 production, Horse Eats Hat (1936), a surrealistic farce co-starring Welles, Joseph Cotten, Hiram Sherman and Arlene Francis. Her husband, Nat Karson, designed the sets and costumes.  Kaye married actor and comedian Jim Backus in 1943. They co-starred in the 1960s television series, Blondie, and she appeared with her husband in the TV sitcom, Gilligan’s Island, in the second-season episode “Gilligan’s Mother-In-Law” (1965). She also acted with her husband in a Season 5 episode of The Love Boat.

Henny and Jim Backus also co-wrote several humorous books, including What Are You Doing After the Orgy? (1962), Only When I Laugh (1965), Backus Strikes Back (1984) and Forgive Us Our Digressions (1988). Henny wrote Care for the Caretaker (1999), documenting her husband’s battle with Parkinson’s Disease and offering practical solutions for those facing such dilemmas.  In 1989, Jim Backus died from complications of pneumonia. Upon her own death at age 93, following a series of strokes, Henny was buried next to her husband in Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles.

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  • March, 21, 1911
  • USA
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania


  • December, 09, 2004
  • USA
  • Los Angeles County, California


  • Westwood Memorial Park
  • Los Angeles County, California
  • USA

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