Here are 10 things you should know about Kay Francis, born 116 years ago today. We will happily watch virtually any picture that features her name in the credits.
We’ve sung the praises of actress Kay Francis in this space many times, but if you’ve never taken the hint and checked out her work, now’s the time. Beginning at 6 a.m. ET tomorrow, TCM is airing 10 of her pictures in a row. (Look for the the full line-up at the end of this post.)
Francis was the queen of women’s pictures—romances and melodramas, with the occasional comedy thrown in for good measure—and a more fashionable star the world has rarely, if ever, seen. She wore glam garb as well as any actress in Hollywood and far better than most.
Francis is also remembered for a charming vocal quirk: She pwonounced R’s like W’s, Elmer Fudd-style. Her struggle with R’s was more understated than was Mr. Fudd’s but you get the idea. So we find it utterly charming that in 1935’s Living on Velvet (not airing tomorrow, but worth watching out for), she and George Brent had some fun at the expense of that vocal quirk. Nice to note that our Ms. Francis didn’t take herself too seriously.
Here, as promised, is the line-up for tomorrow’s Francis Fest; set those DVR’s now! All times are Eastern.
6:00 a.m. | I LOVED A WOMAN (1933)
A Chicago meat-packer tries to keep a rein on his social-climbing wife. Dir: Alfred E. Green; cast: Edward G. Robinson, Kay Francis, Genevieve Tobin
8:00 a.m. | I FOUND STELLA PARISH (1935)
An actress stops at nothing to protect her daughter from her shady past. Dir: Mervyn LeRoy; cast: Kay Francis, Ian Hunter, Paul Lukas
9:30 a.m. | SECRETS OF AN ACTRESS (1938)
A leading lady falls for a married architect who’s invested in her play. Dir: William Keighley; cast: Kay Francis, George Brent, Ian Hunter
11:00 a.m. | DIVORCE (1945)
A frequently divorced woman sets her sights on a happily married man. Dir: William Nigh; cast: Kay Francis, Bruce Cabot, Helen Mack
12:15 p.m. | GUILTY HANDS (1931)
A district attorney tries to frame an innocent girl for the murder he committed. Dir: W. S. Van Dyke; cast: Lionel Barrymore, Kay Francis, Madge Evans
1:30 p.m. | MANDALAY (1934)
A woman with a past tries to get rid of a former lover. Dir: Michael Curtiz; cast: Kay Francis, Ricardo Cortez, Warner Oland .
2:45 p.m. | THE HOUSE ON 56TH STREET (1933)
A woman loses her family after being falsely convicted of a crime. Dir: Robert Florey; cast: Kay Francis, Ricardo Cortez, Gene Raymond
4:00 p.m. | CONFESSION (1937)
A glamorous singer commits murder to protect her daughter’s virtue. Dir: Joe May; cast: Kay Francis, Ian Hunter, Basil Rathbone
5:30 p.m. | JEWEL ROBBERY (1932)
A jewel thief falls for a tycoon’s wife in Vienna. Dir: William Dieterle; cast: William Powell, Kay Francis, Helen Vinson
6:45 p.m. | ONE WAY PASSAGE (1932)
An ocean voyage leads to romance for a dying heiress and a condemned criminal. Dir: Tay Garnett; cast: William Powell, Kay Francis, Aline MacMahon
We’ve shared in this space before how fond we are of actress Kay Francis‘s oeuvre. Her movies, once called “women’s pictures,” would likely be dubbed “soap operas” by most observers today, but whatever tag you choose, the chance to see Kay suffer (she almost always suffered), adorned all the while in elegant gowns designed by the likes of Orry-Kelly and Adrian, is one not to be missed.
One attribute that makes Kay especially appealing is that she has one tiny flaw as an actress: She had trouble with her Rs, much as Elmer Fudd (opposite whom she never starred) struggled with his. To make it clearer for the uninitiated, Kay, were she still with us and if asked to introduce herself, would pronounce her own name, “Kay Fwancis.”
Today marks our Kay’s 110th birthday. She’s brought us much enjoyment over the years, and we’re happy to remember her on this day.