Cara Williams (born Bernice Kamiat; June 29, 1925) is an American film and television actress. She is best known for her role as Billy's Mother in The Defiant Ones (1958), for which she was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, and for her role as Gladys Porter on the television series Pete and Gladys, which ran from 1960–1962 and for which she was nominated for the Emmy Award for Best Lead Actress in a Comedy.
Cara Williams was born Bernice Kamiat in Flatbush, Brooklyn, the daughter of New York-born Florence "Flora" (née Schwartz 1897–1990), whose parents were Romanian Jewish immigrants, and Benjamin Irving Kamiat (1865–1957), a Jewish immigrant born in Lemberg, Austrian Empire. Benny Kamiat was a well-known figure in Brooklyn and a journalist for the Brooklyn Eagle. Her mother worked as a manicurist next to Brooklyn's Albee Theatre, where she would leave her daughter Bernice with the theatre owners to babysit. Young Bernice began making impersonations of all the screen stars she watched in the movies there, and knew she wanted to be an actress. Her parents divorced, and her mother relocated her to Los Angeles, where she chose Cara Williams as her stage name and attended the Hollywood Professional School. Soon, she began performing in radio and at the age of 16 in 1941, she was signed to a film contract and began performing in bit roles, credited as Bernice Kay.
Williams married Alan Gray in 1945; they had a daughter, Cathy Gray, but the marriage ended after two years. Williams then married John Drew Barrymore, the father of Drew Barrymore, in 1952. The marriage was troubled and they divorced in 1959. Their son, John Blyth Barrymore, is a former actor. She is currently married to her third husband, Los Angeles real estate entrepreneur Asher Dann. Williams grew up in the same neighborhood as Oscar-winning actress Susan Hayward.
Film and television
Her first credited role was in the 1941 western Wide Open Town. She followed this with the dramas Girls Town (1942) and Happy Land (1943) with Don Ameche. In 1944, she appeared uncredited in the Oscar-nominated musical film Sweet and Low-Down and as a secretary in the Oscar-winning film Laura directed by Otto Preminger. She also had a supporting role in the drama In the Meantime, Darling, which stars Jeanne Crain. Around this time, she took some time off, marrying her first husband, Alan Gray, in 1945 and having her daughter Cathy.
She had supporting roles in the Oscar-nominated films Boomerang (1947) directed by Elia Kazan, and (uncredited) in Sitting Pretty (1948). She next had supporting roles in The Saxon Charm (1948) which stars Susan Hayward, and Knock on Any Door, which stars Humphrey Bogart.
Williams started the '50s appearing often in television from 1950-1952. She played supporting roles in the musicals The Girl Next Door and The Great Diamond Robbery. She also appeared in Monte Carlo Baby, a comedy with Audrey Hepburn. Williams took time off during this period in which she was married to John Drew Barrymore and gave birth to their son in 1954.
In 1956, Williams appeared in the Oscar-nominated film Meet Me in Las Vegas, in which she performs a memorable song titled I Refuse to Rock n Roll. In 1957, she played a supporting role in The Helen Morgan Story, which stars Ann Blyth and Paul Newman.
In 1958, she was cast as Billy's Mother in The Defiant Ones, which went on to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture and for which she was nominated for the Golden Globe and Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. In 1959, she appeared in Never Steal Anything Small, a musical comedy with James Cagney.
Williams appeared in four episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents - "Decoy" (1956), "De Mortuis" (1956), "Last Request" (1957), and "The Cure" (1960).
From 1960 to 1962, Williams starred in the CBS television comedy series Pete and Gladys, with Harry Morgan as Pete. The series was a spin-off of the popular CBS comedy December Bride, in which Morgan appeared from 1954 to 1959 as Pete Porter. Gladys, his wife, was referred to throughout the entire run of that series but never shown. Williams brought the character to life with Morgan retaining his role as her husband. The show lasted for two seasons, and Williams was nominated for the Emmy Award for Best Lead Actress in a Comedy. While Williams was still under contract to the network, for two years CBS kept her in the public eye by repeating Pete and Gladys episodes as part of its morning line-up--an unusual move for a short-run series. CBS returned Williams to prime time in 1964 in her own series, The Cara Williams Show, which lasted one season.
In 1963, Williams co-starred with Danny Kaye in the comedy film The Man from the Diner's Club.
During the 1970s, Williams' acting appearances became less frequent. In 1971, she had a supporting role in the film Doctors' Wives. She guest-starred in three episodes of Rhoda in 1975 as Mae.
Her last television performance was in a 1977 episode of Visions. Her last film role came in 1978 with The One Man Jury.
After retiring from acting, Williams began a career as an interior designer. She resides in Los Angeles and is married to her third husband, Asher Dann.
- Happy Land (1943)
- In the Meantime, Darling (1944)
- Boomerang (1947)
- Monte Carlo Baby (1951)
- The Great Diamond Robbery (1953)
- Meet Me in Las Vegas (1956)
- The Helen Morgan Story (1957)
- The Defiant Ones (1958)
- Never Steal Anything Small (1959)
- The Man from the Diner's Club (1963)
- Doctors' Wives (1971)
- The White Buffalo (1977)
- The One Man Jury (1978)