As Belinda in Give Me Your Heart (1936) with co-stars George Brent and Roland Young, her performance had "reticence and pathos" and garnered welcoming reviews from The New York Times. [38], In 1966, Francis was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a mastectomy, but the cancer had spread and proved fatal. [6] MacKenna's Hollywood career foundered, having spent more time in New York, with the couple's amicable separation in 1933, and they divorced in 1934.

But never mind, that's my life ... As long as they pay me my salary, they can give me a broom and I'll sweep the stage. In her way, Kay predates Marilyn Monroe’s manner of giving herself over completely to love, to peak pleasure, to the camera. Remain The 'Best Of Friends' -- Actress Here For A Brief Vacation From Studio", "THE SCREEN; The New Criterion Makes Its Bow to Broadway With 'Give Me Your Heart,' Starring Kay Francis", "Kay Francis at Kircassock House, USO Tour, December 1942", "The Chicago Tribune | Kay Francis' Life & Career", Tanya Borodoff / Spot White / Marjorie Lang, Srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски, 1910 United States Federal Census, Fort Lee, Bergen County, New Jersey, Election District 11.

While she wasn’t an actress with a capital A, I can’t abide by an outright dismissal of her performative abilities, nor the assessment that she was little more than an animated mannequin. She worked for a bit as a theatre actress in the mid 20s before landing her first gig at the Long Island annex of Paramount Pictures in 1928, then set out for Hollywood the following year. After a brief period on Broadway in the late 1920s, she moved to film and achieved her greatest success between 1930 and 1936, when she was the number one female star at the Warner Brothers studio and the highest-paid American film actress. [33] This incident was first reported as a fainting spell brought on by an accidental overdose from pills, with a complication of respiratory infection. A better actress in a better movie could pull this off, but Kay doesn’t. [34], Francis married three times: James Dwight Francis (1922–1925); William Gaston (1925–1927); Kenneth MacKenna (1931–1934); and it was erroneously reported by Walter Winchell her third marriage was to screenwriter John Meehan around 1929. By February 1927, Francis returned to Broadway in the play Crime. [9] She often "borrowed" wardrobe for nights out in New York as one of the "fashionistas" that was reported on by the papers of the day. In one of her plodding but still more decent films, Living on Velvet (1935), Kay plays a woman who falls madly in love with a man who is terrible for her, but to whom she is hopelessly devoted (quelle surprise). A quasi-hooker with a heart of gold, she ends up falling in love with one of her paid affections. [1] After a brief period on Broadway in the late 1920s, she moved to film and achieved her greatest success between 1930 and 1936, when she was the number one female star and highest-paid actress at the Warner Brothers studio.[2]. Instead we read her personal journals and scatter our love for her across the corners of the internet in reverent eulogy of this weird, wonderful woman. Francis was raised in this hardscrabble theatrical circuit, often traveling with her mother. Francis was raised in this hardscrabble theatrical circuit, often traveling with her mother. Francis claimed she got the part by "lying a lot, to the right people". Becoming an actress was a solution to Kay’s needs. In a word, she stunned, and with this presence she carried off the most ridiculously decadent outfits with an untold ease. That sentence sounds a little ga-ga, doesn't it? enumerated on May 28, 1910 (Ancestry.com), "$209,100 TO KAY FRANCIS; Actress Topped Warner Brothers Salary Rolls Again This Year", "Style Essentials--Kay Francis Battles in Bias Cut through 1932's TROUBLE IN PARADISE", "Kay Francis Parts From Her Husband; Warner Brothers Announce 'Amicable Separation' Of Film Star And Mackenna. I don't give a damn. 1938. While attending there, she did nothing to discourage the assumption that her mother was the same pioneering American businesswoman who established the chain of vocational schools. Until it isn’t. At the end of the war, Four Jills was given a four-star production by 20th Century Fox, but still needed distribution through Monogram, and the decade found Francis virtually unemployable in Hollywood. While there, she was courted by Bill Gaston, a former athlete at Harvard and member of the Boston Bar Association. When Kay was still a fledgling actress and New York socialite in the late 20s, she caught the attention of notorious gossip columnist Adela Rogers St. Johns. Wonder Bar.

Francis' clotheshorse reputation and 5.9 feet (1.8 m) frame often led Warners' producers to concentrate resources on lavish sets and costumes, a move designed to appeal to Depression-era female audiences and capitalize on her reputation as the epitome of chic, rather than the quality of the storylines. Katherine Edwina "Kay" Francis (née Gibbs, January 13, 1905 – August 26, 1968) was an American stage and film actress.

For one, her characteristic taste for jewels, furs and Veuve Clicquot were a touch gauche amidst wartime austerity. Wools of the boiled variety did nothing for her, nor did pants unless they were silky and billowing, and certainly none of the 40s knee length skirt suits worked. She signed a three-film contract with Poverty Row studio Monogram Pictures that gave her production credit as well as star billing. [28] Francis had a supporting role to Lombard and Cary Grant, and it offered her an opportunity to engage in some serious acting. Kay herself detailed all of this in personal journals kept throughout her career, which essentially became a rolodex in shorthand of her sexual exploits and consistent drunkenness (a favourite entry of mine simply reads, “Drunk again!”). After a brief period on Broadway in the late 1920s, she moved to film and achieved her greatest success between 1930 and 1936, when she was the number one female star at the Warner Brothers studio and the highest-paid American film actress. 1938. When I die, I want to be cremated so that no sign of my existence is left on this earth. By the end of her career she had made over 60 movies, which is pretty absurd when you notice that over half of them were made during her first five years as a screen actress. Her mother had been born in Nova Scotia, Canada, and was a moderately successful actress and singer under the stage name Katharine Clinton. In 1922, a 17-year-old Francis became engaged to, and married James Dwight Francis, a well-to-do man from Pittsfield, Massachusetts. [33] She recovered in an oxygen tent at the local hospital; soon retiring from acting and then, public life. Common ground shared by Kay’s above mentioned characters was their penchant for falling in love with men who are woefully wrong for them. Jewel Robbery. Dir. Carole Lombard, who had been a supporting player in Francis' 1931 film Ladies' Man, insisted Francis be cast in her film In Name Only (1939). The types of movies Kay starred in aren’t the kind that garner grandiose restoration rollouts or the Criterion treatment.

[26] This, in turn, led to her demotion to programmers, such as Women in the Wind (1939), and, in the same year, to the termination of her contract. This could have been fine if she had the range to play a character of more modest means. The Independent Theatre Owners Association paid for an advertisement in The Hollywood Reporter in May 1938 that included Francis, along with Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford, Fred Astaire, Mae West, Katharine Hepburn, and others, on a list of stars dubbed "box office poison". She died in 1968, aged 63, and her body was immediately cremated; her ashes were disposed of according to her will, "how the undertaker sees fit. [6], —From Kay Francis's private diaries, c. To install click the Add extension button. The movie was a remake of Paul Muni's Dr. Socrates (1935), with Francis in the role of a doctor who is forced to treat Bogart's injured gangster character, and then gets caught up with the law. True to form for a woman’s melodrama, Kay’s character has forsaken her silver spoon life with her wealthy aunt for the pursuit of true love. Her manager and traveling companion had arrived at Francis' hotel room, and in an attempt to revive the unconscious actress with fresh air, burned her legs on the radiator near the window. [16], Francis's career flourished at Paramount in spite of a slight, but distinctive rhotacism (she pronounced the letter "r" as "w") that gave rise to the nickname "Wavishing Kay Fwancis". Francis spent the remainder of the 1940s on the stage, appearing with some success in State of the Union and touring in various productions of plays, old and new, including Windy Hill, backed by former Warner Bros. colleague Ruth Chatterton. To add insult to injury, you really don’t want to see Kay in anything remotely resembling the humble threads of 40s fabric rationing. The bulk of her filmography you can take or leave. If you’re someone like me, someone whose tastes most closely align with that of a 60 year old gay male costume designer’s, you’ll know who actress Kay Francis is. They meet, they woo, they carry out a dolefully impossible affair. After Francis' divorce from Gaston, in September 1927, she became engaged to a society playboy, Alan Ryan Jr. She promised Ryan's family that she would not return to the stage – a promise that lasted only a few months before she was back on Broadway as an aviator in a Rachel Crothers play, Venus.

Having no living immediate family members, Francis left more than $1 million to The Seeing Eye, an organization in New Jersey, which trains guide dogs for the blind. If you take your doses of 1930s cinema intravenously and have a frenzied addiction to hardcore glamour, you’ll know who Kay Francis is.