Happy 112th Birthday, Kay Francis!

Fashion plate and Queen of the Women’s Pictures Kay Francis was born Katherine Edwina Gibbs 112 years ago today in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Here are 10 KF Did-You-Knows:

  • Though Francis was born in Oklahoma City, she didn’t live there long. Much of her childhood was spent on the road with her mother, Katherine Clinton, who was an actress. At age 17, Francis, who was then attending Katherine Gibbs Secretarial School in New York City, married the first of her five husbands—one James Dwight Francis, member of a prominent (and well-to-do) Pittsfield, Massachusetts, family. That marriage, like the four other matrimonial knots Francis would eventually tie, unraveled in relatively short order.
  • Shortly after her 1925 divorce, Francis decided to follow her mother’s example and pursue a life on the stage. In November of that year, she made her Broadway debut as the Player Queen in a modern-dress version of Shakespeare’s Hamlet.
  • After a handful more Broadway roles, Walter Huston, her costar in the 1928 production of Elmer the Great, encouraged her to take a screen test for Paramount Pictures. She did, and was given roles in Gentlemen of the Press (1929) and the Marx Brothers‘ first picture, The Cocoanuts (1929), both of which were filmed at Paramount’s Astoria Studios in Queens, NY.
  • Soon thereafter, Francis moved to Hollywood where her striking looks and model’s figure (she stood 5’9″, very tall for an actress at the time) helped her career to ascend. From 1929 to 1931, she appeared in more than twenty films.
  • Warner Brothers wooed Francis away from Paramount in 1932, and it was there that she experienced her greatest success. By the mid-’30s, Francis was the queen of the Warner Brothers lot and one of the highest-paid people in the United States. From 1930-37, Francis appeared on the cover of more than 38 movie magazines, second only to Shirley Temple (who racked an astonishing 138 covers over that span).
  • At Warner Brothers, Kay became known as a clotheshorse. Her ability to wear stylish clothes well was highly valued by the studio and admired by fans; in fact, she eventually came to feel that Warner Brothers put more more of a focus on her on-screen wardrobe than her film’s scripts, as she came to be unalterably associated with the sort of weepy melodramas that were then known as “women’s pictures.” We fully understand the frustration she felt at the time, but we’ll admit that we love those pictures and adore Francis’ performances in them.
  • Francis’ great success came in spite of a noticable speech impediment: She pronounced R’s as W’s (ala Elmer Fudd). As such, our favorite line of Kay Francis dialogue appears in Mandalay (1934), which was directed by Michael Curtiz and in which Kay starred with Ricardo Cortez, Lyle Talbot, and Warner Oland. It’s great fun to hear her intone, “Gwegowy, we awwive at Mandalay tomowwow.”
  • Francis’ personal life was something of a mess. An exceedingly liberated person, sexually, she slept with both men and with women—and plenty of them, and none of her five marriages lasted very long.
  • Francis’s career fell as quickly as it had risen. She was through with the movies (or perhaps vice versa) by 1946, when she appeared in her final picture, Wife Wanted, a budget quickie made for the infamous Poverty Row studio Monogram Pictures. Aside from some stage work in the late ’40s and a couple of TV appearences in the early ’50s, she avoided the spotlight thereafter and was largely forgotten by the public (until Turner Classic Movies began to feature her pictures prominently in its programming and her star again rose among old-movie buffs).
  • When she died in 1968 of breast cancer, Kay Francis left more than one million dollars to The Seeing Eye, Inc., an organization that trains guide dogs for the blind.

Happy birthday, Kay Francis, wherever you may be!

Kay Francis

Pitch perfect: plumbing

As the Pitch Perfect series continues, today we feature a 1949 collection of advertising slogans used to market plumbing parts and supplies.

Always on guard (automatic valve), Belknap Mfg. Co.
Are you annoyed by a drip? (Peerless Plumbers Corp.).

Built to wear without repair (H. Mueller Mfg. Co.).

Crane beauty in the open; Crane quality in all hidden fittings.

Designed to make the passer-BUY (sink racks), Autotyre Co.

Easily distinguished by the yellow back (faucet washer), Ross Mfg. Co.
Easily identified by the yellow back (Ross Mfg. Co.), Kansas City, Mo.
Easy to handle, hard to beat (Finer Fittings).

Faucets with-out a fault (Mueller Co.).
For every piping item (Crane).

If it’s Speakman, it’s quality (fixtures), Speakman Co.
If it’s Speakman, it’s unsurpassed (fixtures).
It eliminates the noise that annoys (flush values), Speakman Co.
It is the body itself (sinks), Knight-ware.
It’s all worth, if Walworth (valves), Walworth Mfg. Co.
It’s the twisted teeth that lock (Shakeproof Lock Washer Co.).
It’s truly a whale of a washer (Fletcher Works, Inc.).

Made for lifetime service (Jenkins valves).
Modern plumbers trade magnet, The (Republic Brass Co.).
More heat from less coal (Hoffman valves).

Quality is demonstrated by their performance (Stockham Pipe & Fittings).

Recognized as a standard (Harrisburg couplings).

Scientifically different, definitely (pipes), M. Linkman & Co.
Serving the nation’s health and comfort (Plumbing), Am. Standard.
Sets the pace in valves (O I C valves).
Stop that leak in the toilet tank (Ross Mfg. Co.).
Successor to the sink, The (Hydrocrat), Bossert Corp.
Sure to seal, easy to open (Good Luck Rings), Boston Woven Hose & Rubber Co.

Tight as pipe, but flexible (Penflex tubing).

Wake tells the story, The (photo-electric cell), Kirsten Pipe Co.
We took the splash out of the kitchen (Union brass faucet).
Wherever piping is involved (Grinnell Co.), Providence, R. I.

Pitch perfect: stoves

As the Pitch Perfect series continues, today we feature a 1949 collection of advertising slogans used to market stoves, heaters, and ranges.

Always save in the end (Keith Furnace Co.), Des Moines.
America’s favorite camp stove (American Gas Machine Co.).
America’s more popular camp stove (American Gas Machine Co.).
An above-the-floor furnace (parlor furnace), Allen Mfg. Co., Nashville.
Aristocrat of electric ranges, The (Benjamin Electric Co.), Chicago.

Beauty and warmth (National Radiator Co.), Johnstone, Pa.
Besler brings the steam to your job (Besler Corp.), Emeryville, Calif.
Biggest name in portable electric heaters, The (Arvin).
Brings a touch of the tropics (Flamingo gas heaters), Jackes-Evans Mfg. Co.
Built to save oil (Boss Oil Air Stove), Huenefeld Co., Cincinnati.

Change work to play three times a day (Standard Electric Stove Co.).
Chases chills from cold corners (Perfection Stove Co.).
Choice of over a million women, A (stoves), The Moore Corp., Joliet, Ill.
Clean, convenient, dependable and now economical electrical cooking (Everhot).
Come home to comfort (Bryant Heater Co.), Cleveland.
Comfortable heat when you want it, where you want it, at a price you can afford (Oilray Safety Heater, Inc.), Chicago.
Complete heating satisfaction (Orr & Sembower, Inc.), Reading, Pa.
Complete heating satisfaction (The Stubbs Co.), Cleveland.
Cooking is just a SNAP in an Estate electric range (Estate Stove Co.).
Cook stove and gas plant all in one (Coleman Lamp Co.), Wichita, Kan.
Cooks with the gas turned off (Chambers Corp.), Shelbyville, Ind.
Cozy comfort for chilly days (American Gas Machine Co.), Albert Lea, Minn.
Cradled silence (Doe Oil Burner), Oil-Elec-Tric Engineering Corp.

Delco heat Minute Man to protect your heating comfort for the duration.
Designed by women for women (Hotpoint ranges).
Dunham heating means better heating (Chicago).

Easiest and cheapest way to heat your home, The (Electrol, Inc.).
Electric range with the safety, The (Presteline).

First, from the very first (Ray Oil Burner Co.).
Fitted flame burners (Roberts & Mander Corp.).
Flame that will brighten your future (gas heaters).
Floating flame (Century Engineering Corp.), Cedar Rapids.
Foods taste better cooked with gas.
For better and faster baking (Pyrex ovenware).
For comfort and pleasure all through the house (heater), Arvin.
For increased fuel economy (Edge Moor Iron Co.), Edge Moor, Del.
Furnace freedom (Penn Electric Switch Co.).
Furnace heat for every home (Monitor Stove Co.).

Gas, the comfort fuel (Philadelphia Gas Works Co.).
Gas range with the lifetime burner guarantee, The (Magic Chef).
Gas range you want, The (Caloric).
Gas service for cooking, no matter where you live (Coleman Lamp Co.).
Gives you the most from heat (The Bristol Co.), Waterbury.
Glenwood Ranges make cooking easier (Glenwood Range Co.), Taunton, Mass.
Greatest recent advance in building and heating economy, The (Thermolath).
Guaranteed heating (U. S. Radiator Co.), Detroit.
Guardian of the nation’s health (water heater), A. O. Smith Corp.
Read More »

Pitch perfect: lamps

As the Pitch Perfect series continues, we today feature a 1949 collection of advertising slogans used to market lamps, lights, and bulbs.

After sunset, Lightoliers (Lightolier Co.), New York.
American dark chaser (lamps and lanterns), Am. Gas Machine Co., Albert Lea, Minn.
America’s most beautiful lamps (Art Lamp Mfg. Co.), Chicago.

Bores a 300-foot hole in the night (Niagara Searchlight Co.).
Brayco Light makes all things clear (Bray Screen Products).
Brightens the night (Fullerton Electric Co.).
Bright-Lite has a brilliant future (Britelite Co.).
Built for a palace, priced for a cottage (Lighting equipment), Moe-Bridges Co.
Burns like city gas, not a liquid fuel (Pyrofax), Carbide and Carbon Chemicals.
Buy a How searchlight today, you may need it tonight (How Lamp & Mfg. Co.).
Buy one today, you’ll need it tonight (French Battery & Carbon Co.).
Buy spares, they stay fresh (Ray-O-Vac), Flashlight batteries.

Chases darkness (AM Gas Machine Co.), Albert Lea, Minn.
Combination pilot light and switch, The (Sho-Lite, Inc.), Boston.

Daylight’s only rival (Silverglo Lamps, Inc.), Baltimore.
Decorate with artistic lighting equipment (Artistic Lighting Equip. Assn.).
Divides the road in half (headlights), Saf-De-Lite Sales Corp., Philadelphia.
Don’t grope in the dark (Daylo), American Ever Ready works.
Double duty searchlight, The (F. W. Wakefield Brass Co.).

Experts know these lamps (Hygrade Sylvania Corp.), Salem, Mass.
Eye-ease at the snap of the switch (Silverglo Lamps, Inc.), Baltimore.
Eyes of the night (Ilco headlight), Indiana Lamp Corp.

For safety after dark (Arrow Safety Device Co.), Mount Holly, N. J.
Full package of light, A (Hygrade Sylvania Corp.), Salem, Mass.

Give long-lasting light, bullet-fast (Winchester flashlight).
Gives more bright light longer (Bright Star flashlight).
Glass arm conveys the light, A (Sho-Lite), Am. Chain Co., New York.
Guaranteed by the name (Westinghouse).
Guardian of highway safety (Robox), Emergency auto control Mid-Switch Corp.

Handiest light in the world, The (Bussman Mfg. Co.), St. Louis.
Handy light on a reel, The (Appleton Electric Co.), Chicago.
Headlight that floodlights the road, The (Indiana Lamp Corp.), Connersville.
Holophane directs light scientifically (Holophane Glass Co.).
Howe products must make good or we will (automotive equipment), Howe Lamp Co.
Read More »

Movies like they oughts to be

It’s exciting any time that film buffs are given access to rarely seen pictures from days gone by, and it’s even more exciting when those films are made available to one and all, free of charge.

Fifty-six films made by the Thanhouser Company, originally released between 1910 and 1917, are now available via online stream, free of charge.

The Thanhouser Company was founded in 1910 by Edwin Thanhouser, who had made a nice living serving as the manager of the Academy of Music Theater in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Thanhouser decided he wanted to get into the motion picture business, and given that the film industry was then centered in the New York City area, he made his way to the Big Apple with every intention of opening a production studio in Manhattan.

Because so many producers and performers of note then lived in New Rochelle, a Westchester County suburb of NYC, Thanhouser took the train to that burg, hoping to make some connections. Instead, he met a real estate broker there who convinced him that New Rochelle was the perfect place to locate his studio. Thanhouser was convinced to buy a shuttered rolling skate rink as headquarters for his new endeavor.

Thanhouser’s theatrical experience served him well as a film maker, and New Rochelle, situated between urban and rural settings, allowed him to film on location to great effect. The municipal authorities in New Rochelle were very cooperative as well, allowing Thanhouser to shoot freely in and around town, and it showed in the pictures Thanhouser put out.

In 1912, Thanhouser sold the studio at a healthy profit to the Mutual Picture Corporation, and by 1915, they realized how key he had been to the quality of pictures the studio churned out. That spring, they brought Thanhouser back to manage studio operations, and the company’s fortunes again were on the upswing.

The year 1917 was a rough one for the movie business, with many studios laying off employees and actors. Though his studio was still operating at a profit, Thanhouser opted to get out of the movie business and build a dream home on Long Island in which to spend his golden years. The studio was leased to another production company, the Clara Kimball Young Film Corporation, and the Thanhouser Film Corporation ceased to operate.

But the films live on, and now you, Cladrite reader, can travel back in time, via the wonders of the internet, to enjoy quality cinema as it existed a century ago. We’ve included the earliest film in the collection below, just to give you a taste of the experience, but you can view all 56 pictures at Thanhouser.org. And while you’re there, you can purchase the films on DVD or show your gratitude by following the link on the web site to donate to Thanhouser Company Film Preservation, Inc., “a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization involved in the research, acquisition, preservation and publication of educational materials related to the early silent motion picture era, with a specific focus on the Thanhouser film enterprise.”

The Actor’s Children (1910) from Ned Thanhouser on Vimeo.