Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Kay Francis: Where Have You Been All Of My Life?





Until recently, I never had any real interest in Kay Francis. I was aware of her, had seen her in a few films, but never was impressed enough to pursue her. Well, all I can say about me is - what a dope!
Now, I am all over this woman. An authentic "dark beauty," Kay Francis is a totally unique personality. Quite tall, beautiful in a singular fashion, and a famed clotheshorse, Kay Francis had a low, soothingly sexy voice with one little flaw - she could not say her "r"s. It's actually very noticeable and somewhat surprising that she made it up into the upper echelons of stardom on both stage and screen with such a speech impediment. I suppose it is kind of cute, but it gave her the nickname of "the wavishing Kay Fwancis."


My chief brushes with Kay came from her role as the bitchy wife of "In Name Only." Hey, anyone who makes my Cary Grant unhappy already has a black mark against them. I also saw her some very early poor films and some of her later poorer films. Somehow, I missed the glory  years. And then came a Kay Francis triple that blew me away. She was not the bitchy, brittle type at all. There is a genuine warmth about her and an intelligence that makes her a very appealing woman.


One Way Passage
Before Myrna Loy, William Powell was teamed with Kay and they made six films together, first at Paramount and then at Warner Brothers. She and Powell had great chemistry together. He is warm and romantic (on his way to the electric chair), and she is bright an vivacious (on her way to the great beyond). A very romantic film with two tremendously appealing and attractive stars.


Trouble in Paradise
It's really Miriam Hopkins and Herbert Marshall's show in this Lubitch treasure, but Kay adds real glamour and sophistication. She is as bright and glittering as a diamond as the careless-with-money and free-with-her-love heiress who happens to steal the heart of thief Marshall. A really great film.


Girls About Town
As a carefree gold digger with pal Lilyan Tashman (who steals the how), Kay is quite sexy in this naughty pre-code goodie directed by George Cukor. Added bonuses are a very handsome Joel McCrea, risque dialogue and girls in lingerie.


Career & Personal Life
What a woman! Kay was quite the gal off screen, racking up a total of 5 husbands and lovers by the score. She was a socialite, stage actress and film star and did it all with great style. Kay was a woman who lived for the moment!


Following some success on stage (she made her debut at 20 and already had a Paris divorce under her belt), she went to Hollywood in 1929. After initial success at Paramount, she moved to Warner Brothers where, for a short time, she shared the title "Queen of the Lot," with Ruth Chatterton. However, life changed for all actresses at Warner Brothers when a wind named Bette Davis blew in and subjugated all former queens to mere hand maidens. After leaving Warner Brothers at the end of the 1930, Kay's career went into decline, although she managed to make some interesting later films.


War Service
During World War II, she, along with fellow actors Carole Landis, Martha Raye and Mitzi Mayfair did tremendous volunteer work and entertained the troops in the field. Their adventures were described in the book Four Jills in a Jeep, which was later made into the a movie of the same name starring all 4 Jills. Kay also contributed greatly to the Red Cross and donated much of her time to the USO. Slinky and patriotic - what a gal.


After retirement, Kay left the bulk of her fortune to the The Seeing Eye, Inc., which trains guide dogs for the blind. Her personal papers and diaries were donated to Wesleyan University.


There are many great sites on the internet that give much more information about Kay than I am doing here. Two, in particular, that I like are:
The Kay Francis Fan Page  and Kay Francis - I Can't Wait to Be Forgotten.

Because I fully admit to being mesmerized by her alluring appearance, I offer a sampling of the dazzling Kay Francis, who goes into my book of dark ladies I love (alongside Pola Negri, Ann Dvorak, Louise Brooks and Miriam Cooper).






















Okay, I'll stop now. And I will continue my exploration into all things Kay Francis. It's so much fun to discover a "new to me" favorite!


Kay Francis films on my list to see:
Behind the Makeup (1930)
Jewel Robbery (1932) - Yay - on TCM on December 1st!
Cynara (1932)
Mandalay (1934)
Wonder Bar (1934)
Living on Velvet (1935)


1925 portrait of Kay by Charles Baskerville
I just ordered her bio, and can't wait to read it. 2012 is going to be my year of Kay Francis!

25 comments:

Laura said...

I really need to get my act together and see Trouble in Paradise. Francis is such a chic character. Great tribute!

FlickChick said...

Kay is adorable in "Trouble in Paradise," and soooooooo romantic in "One Way Passage." I know that William Powell and Myrna Loy went together like peaches and cream, but he and Kay also made a great couple.

ClassicBecky said...

FlickChick, you have touched on a subject with which I had the exact same experience. I never paid much attention to her when I was young. I'm not sure why, but in the past 10 years or so, I've fallen in love with Kay. One Way Passage was my real introduction, and I was certainly was lucky to start appreciating her with that movie. Marvelous. My very favorite Kay movie is "Mary Stevens, M.D." She plays a woman doctor, controversial in itself, who has a baby out of wedlock. She is a strong woman throughout, no weeping and wailing about the baby, very decided and happy. She doesn't show off her fashion type in that movie, but she is great. You should put that one on your must-see list.

Those pictures are gorgeous. That white gown with the gold trim and the unusual blue necklace has to be my favorite -- what a dame!

FlickChick said...

Thank you, Becky, and i sure will put that film on my list. I just got her bio and there are lengthy descriptions of her films (as well as her romantic exploits - what a dame is right!), so I am getting knee-deep in Kay Francis. She is totally unconventional, so maybe one needs a bit of maturity to be drawn to her.

Diane said...

"the wavishing Kay Fwancis." Oh what a wonderful and whimsical look at one of my favorites. Thanks for adding it to your list.
Great job...

FlickChick said...

Thanks, Diane - I was hoping you'd like it.

DorianTB said...

FlickChick, I'm delighted to see that you've discovered "the wavishing Kay Fwancis"! Seriously, I had loved her back when I was in college, having discovered her films during film nights in my alma mater, Fordham University. I even bought photos of her from movie memorabilia stores! Alas, I lost most of them during a series of moves in the early 2000's. Glad you're helping to put Kay on the map again! And by the way, although her little speech impediment with the letter "r" was playfully teased, I've read that when Kay began to cost her studio too much money when her career began winding down, scriptwriters would deliberately put lots of "r" words into her dialogue so she'd sound foolish and, they hoped, would encourage her to call it a day. Well, *NYAH!* to them! Great post!

FlickChick said...

Thanks, Dorian! Yes - I noticed that in her later movies, she had names like "Teri" - so mean! I'm very late to the Kay Francis party, but am loving learning about her.

Christian Esquevin said...

Well done FlickChick. What a pair of dark beauties Kay Francis and Ann Dvorak were at Warner Brothers. They were costume designer Orry-Kelly's favorite clothes-horses - with the perfect 1930s silhouette and lots of class. And they could act with the best of them. Let's hear more about her bio when you read it.

FlickChick said...

Thank you, Christian. Ann and Kay were just knockouts. Too bad their careers did not flourish to their full potential. I surely will let you know about the bio - I might have to do a "dark beauties of Warners" post!

Dawn said...

Flickchick, I'm so glad that you finally discovered Kay Francis, who I truly believe is one of those wonderful glamorous 'forgotten stars' from Hollywood's Golden Era.

FlickChick said...

Thanks, Dawn. I finally got there! One of her films is no tonight and I can't wait to see it. My phone is off and I'm not answering the door!

Miss Meadows said...

What a beautiful woman! I can't recall seeing any of her movies. Will be sure to keep a look out for her in the future tho! :) xx

FlickChick said...

She is, indeed, beautiful. I don't know why I ignored her for so long, but suddenly something clicked and I saw the light!

Ithankyou said...

I don't recall seeing a Kay Francis film (I must have...) but I will definitely seek her out now! Wonderful post and a fascinating person you have bought back to the light!

FlickChick said...

Why thank you! I hope you do get to see one - Trouble in Paradise is a goodie - as I know you'll think she's pretty awesome.

The Lady Eve said...

FlickChick - My early intro to Kay, like yours, was IN NAME ONLY - and, like you, I can't stand anyone who is cruel to Cary. It probably wasn't until TCM came into my life that I really got a good look at her in anything else. One of my favorites of hers is TROUBLE IN PARADISE which - I discovered in my travels around the blogosphere - will be screening at Seattle's Grand Illusion Cinema from Dec. 30 - Jan. 5 (I'm tempted to take a vacation to the great NW).

A great post with fabulous pix, as always...

FlickChick said...

Thank you, Lady Eve. I would give anything to see Trouble in Paradise on the big screen - if only to see Kay's fabulous fashions that way they were meant to be seen!

Gilby37 said...

Very nice article about an actress I too rediscovered recently. Last year, I watched a bunch of Kay's films and loved them. She was the subject of an article I wrote September,2010. Hopefully, articles like these can make more fans recognize this woman's contributions to classic film.

FlickChick said...

It's so much fun to "discover" someone new!

Tom said...

I've known about this lady's sex appeal since I was about...10, no kidding. I saw her in "The Cocoanuts", which was an early (the 1st!) Marx Brothers vehicle, and I was a big fan.
Anyways, even as a boy, I recognized something dangerous in the androgynous flapper. She had short hair, but wore long gowns, and was sexy as hell.
By far, it's one of her lesser works, and she probably didn't have much for acting chops yet. Still, visually, she's a great representation of the Jazz Age.
Came across your blog while taking one of my periodic Google Searches of her. Nice blog! Thanks!

tommybass said...

She was the 'art' in "Art-Deco". She and Louise Brooks were the ultimate flappers. Sure, Joan Crawford, Clara Bow, etc, were certainly there, but? With KF and LB it's more like their overall essence, almost like lives that are time capsules.

karen said...

"I can't wait to be forgotten"...Kay told Photoplay magazine....1939. She made 68 films in 17 years. If those movies were forgotten fashion designers never forgot her sense of style. Nobody looked like Kay.

KF said...

She was my mothers favorite star, so when I was born, she named me after the beautiful lady. That is all I knew of Kay Franc(e)is until I finally saw a picture of her on this page. Too bad I only got her name and not her looks!

Jeffrey Schwartz said...

I've always loved One Way Passage, but I loved it first as Till We Meet Again, the remake with Merle Oberon and George Brent, eight years after the original.

However, if you've never seen Confession, you've never seen Kay's best flick.