Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Dark Ladies of Warner Brothers: Ann Dvorak and Kay Francis

I've sung their praises before, but Ann Dvorak and Kay Francis are two of my favorite actresses.
Ann Dvorak
Besides being beautiful brunettes, both ladies had a lot in common.
Kay Francis
Both Ann and Kay:
Spent the best part of their careers under contract at Warner Brothers (although Kay made some stunners first at Paramount)
Were utterly unique in appearance (Warners had an eye for players who were not like anyone else)
Wore clothes like nobody's business
Did most of their best work pre-code
Saw their careers crumble at Warner Brothers (although Ann chose to walk away)

Kay Francis
Kay Francis was well known as one of the best-dressed women in Hollywood and provided the perfect subject for Warner Brothers chief designer Orry-Kelly. She was elegant and cosmopolitan, but also had a kind of breezy charm that comes across today as very natural. 

This Dark Lady looks elegant in black and pearls

Kay was quite tall and was made for those gowns that sweep the floor

She looks good in gowns that drape the stairs, too
Kay could do sporty

Just a beautiful, glamorous lady
A Grecian vision
My favorite Warners look - from "Mandalay"

Kay was the "top dog" at Warners until a force of nature by the name of Bette Davis blew in.  Never the actress that Davis was (who was, for that matter), Kay was the movie star deluxe. I simply can't take my eyes off of her!

Ann Dvorak
Ann was not quite as glamorous as Kay, but she had a sophisticated allure that I find, well, alluring. While Kay was a calmer type, Ann was high-strung. Her emotions were vibrating barely below the surface. She was all clean lines and wore her Warners fashions with classic, casual ease.

Ann looks good from all angles

Very modern
Ann looked swell in polka dots
And stripes
And Plaids

Oh, that hat!

One of my favorite looks - clean and chic

Love the shoes

Who wouldn't come back for more of Ann?
Well, that's my latest drumbeat for Ann and Kay. I'm sure there will be more, since I can't resist either one!


Kimberly J.M. Wilson said...

Of the two, I prefer Kay Francis.

FlickChick said...

She was the bigger star, for sure. Both ladies were more interested in life than in being a movie star, which is why things didn't work out so well for them eventually - Hollywood - wise, that is!

Christian Esquevin said...

Thanks FlickChick for highlighting these two unique beauties. Their roles and their persona always make for compelling viewing for me. They were strong ladies who were individualists, and so always a bit against the grain in Hollywood. I can't take my eyes off them in their movies - so love the photos you share.

Samantha said...

I am all Kay, thanks for all those beautiful photos and oh what I would do or give to wear one of those gowns.

DorianTB said...

FlickChick, I think both Ann Dvorak and Kay Francis are uniquely alluring in their own ways! Still, I'll confess that I got a bit of a "girl crush" on Kay Francis when I first discovered her movies as a teenager. I used to pick up photos of her at Movie Star News, before I became an adult and had to spend money on foolish things like food! :-)

Kay Francis was beautiful, elegant, and had the tiniest hint of a speech impediment: her "r" always sounded a little like "w", prompting wiseacres to dub her "The Wavishing Kay Fwancis." Having a mild lisp myself, I found myself identifying with her.I've read that when Warner Bros. tried to squeeze her out because she was getting expensive, those in charge tried to make her look bad by giving her dialogue that comically er r's, e.g. "Wobert, let's wun off to Wio." I like a joke as much as anyone, but doing it that way seems kinda mean-spirited to me!

Anyway, their talent and beauty trump these petty things, in my opinion. Thanks for sharing your info and gorgeous photos on both these exceptional ladies!

FlickChick said...

@ Christian: Oh, thanks do much. They were both strong personalities who went up against the front office - and paid a price. But, in their time, they were divine!

FlickChick said...

@ Samantha: What I wouldn't give to FIT into one of those gowns!

FlickChick said...

@ Dorian: Kay was actually quite a sport about her "r" problem and even makes fun of it in a few of her movies. It's really kind of amazing that she was so successful in films, as it is quite noticeable (but also quite endearing).

ClassicBecky said...

FlickChick, these are two of my favorites, real spotlights especially in pre-code movies. It's funny, but I admire Kay for sticking it to the studio and staying on, and I admire Ann for slamming the door in their face. I believe Ann, with those stunning eyes, was the prettier, and Kay was the more haughty lovely. Whenever one of their movies is on TCM, I can't help but stop what I'm doing and watch it. Your pictures alone are to die for, but you also have written a really good article!

FlickChick said...

Oh, thank you Becky! I agree that Ann was just beautiful - and I admire them both for exactly the reasons you set forth. I guess we like them because they did it their way - even if it was the hard way!

DorianTB said...

FlickChick, thanks for following up on my comments with your revelation that Kay Francis was such a good sport about her "R" issues. Knowing Francis had a sense of humor about the issue makes me like her even more! :-)

Page said...

Awwww I love these dark haired beauties! We need love too. (Sorry Harlow and Lombard) Kay took such amazing photos with those dark eyes and that jet black hair but in her films I've noticed that they aren't as mesmerizing as in photos.

I have that photo of Dvorak in polka dots, one of my favorites of her. She was so tiny.

Nice pics!

FlickChick said...

Page - it's true that Kay really did up the eyes for the photos. I think because her eyes were blue, they probably didn't look quite as dark in an actual film. I have one pic where her eye and lip make up is so dark, I swear it's black (be she smolders!).

Caftan Woman said...

I hadn't seen any Kay Francis movies until the last decade or so. Growing up my dad was a big fan of Ann Dvorak and he passed that on. I've always found her an intriguing actress and someone who seemed like she would be a pal.

FlickChick said...

Thank you, CW - I think that the boys did have a thing for nn. I, too, have recently "discovered" Kay Francis and am - I admit it - smitten.

Inge Gregusch said...

Great Post. Love, love, love the fashions!

FlickChick said...

Inge - if I make you happy, my work is done!

Dawn said...

Please add me to the Kay Francis, list of fans!! Awesome pictures as always!!

FlickChick said...

Thanks, Dawn. I am all over Kay this year. I am reading her bio and there are so many films I'd love to see!

Robert said...

An interesting entry in the IMDB article on Ann Dvorak states that she "...was an avid bibliophile and had a large and valuable collection of first editions dating back to 1703." Another reason to admire her!

FlickChick said...

@ Robert - she was a very interesting person indeed. She also drove an ambulance in wartime England. Both ladies did amazing war work.