Ilka Chase made her society debut in 1923 and her Broadway debut a year later, in The Red Falcon. Her stage appearances included roles in Days Without End, Forsaking All Others, While Parents Sleep, On to Fortune, Tampico, Co-Respondent Unknown, Revenge With Music, Keep Off the Grass and In Bed We Cry, which was an adaptation of her novel of the same name. She was in the first Broadway cast of Clare Boothe Luce's playThe Women (1938) and subsequently appeared in Neil Simon's Broadway hit Barefoot in the Park.
Her films included Fast and Loose, Once a Sinner, The Animal Kingdom, The Big Knife, and Now, Voyager. For several years, she was host of a radio program, Luncheon at the Waldorf.
In 1957, she performed the role of the Stepmother in the television production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella, which starred Julie Andrews. Her last motion picture appearance came in Ocean's 11 (1960) as the mother of the Peter Lawford character. Chase made a rare television sitcom appearance as "Aunt Pauline" on The Patty Duke Show.
Ilka Chase was married three times and divorced twice. She bore no children:
- Actor Louis Calhern, 1926–27
- William B. Murray, a radio executive, 1935–46
- Dr. Norton Sager Brown, 1946–78
Her autobiography Past Imperfect (Volume I), which said "Those who never fail are those who never try," was published in 1942, with Volume II,Free Admission, being published in 1948. She also wrote more than a dozen other books.
Chase died in Mexico City, aged 77. Her epitaph reads: "I've finally gotten to the bottom of things."