Appeared in vaudeville in New York and on the road before moving to California to begin a film career with her friend from vaudeville, Mack Sennett.
Her second husband was the motion picture director, Richard Smith, with whom she earlier had a vaudeville act known as Howell and Howell. The name came about when they were asked to replace an act on the road called Howell and Howell and there was not time to change the billboards.
Mother of Yvonne Howell Stevens (1905-2010), who married the director George Stevens and is the mother of George Stevens Jr. and the grandmother of Michael Stevens.
Stan Laurel considered her one of the ten greatest comediennes of all time.
Was a vaudeville performer in the early 1900s, also had a five year spell in burlesque shows after 1907. Started in Hollywood as an extra at Keystone, earning $6 a week. Gained a reputation as a lively, eccentric comedienne. Subsequently joined L-KO/Reelcraft, where she was given her own starring series of two-reel comedies. After the mid-1920s, worked variously at Universal, Selznick and First National. Now regarded as possibly one of the leading female exponents of physical comedy at the time.