Remembering Kay Francis on Her 113th Birthday

Kay Francis, born 113 years ago today, is perhaps something of an acquired taste for modern audiences. One of the biggest stars of the 1930s, she was largely forgotten until Turner Classic Movies, bless their hearts, helped to revive and renew interest in her career.

For our part, we happily watch virtually any picture that features her name in the credits.

Here are 10 things you should know about Kay Francis…

Remembering Lillian Roth on Her 107th Birthday

Lillian RothIn 1974, big news was made when prolonged legal wrangling over the rights to the Marx Brothers‘ second movie, Animal Crackers (1930), was finally resolved and the movie was released for public screenings for the first time for the first time in many years.

Imagine that: A “new” Marx Brothers movie (new in the fact that no one had been able to view it, in a theatre or on television, for so long—and of course, there were no VHS tapes yet, much less DVDs or Blu-Rays).

It was our junior year in high school, and we were working part-time evenings and weekends at the Northpark Cinema 4 in Oklahoma City. Already very devoted to all things Marx Brothers, we were thrilled when Animal Crackers was booked there. The movie settled in for an inexplicably long run (our memory might be playing tricks on us, but we recall it being there for a month or more), and we spent many an hour on those slow weekend afternoons soaking up the Marxian magic when we should have been out front taking tickets and sweeping up spilled popcorn. (To this day, we have the dialogue from that picture all but memorized.)

But it wasn’t just Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and Zeppo who held our attention. The winsome Ms. Lillian Roth, who played the ingénue in Animal Crackers and whose 107th birthday it is today, hooked us but good with her flirtatious ways and deep-dish dimples.

We’ve had a crush on her ever since, and we trust that, after watching the following clips, you will, too. Happy birthday, lovely Lillian Roth, wherever you may be.

  

This post first saw the light of day on 12/13/2012.

The B. C. Clark Jingle: A Christmas Tradition Continues, Year Nine

It’s that time of year again, folks, when we share the B. C. Clark holiday jingle with you.

B. C. Clark Jingle: A holiday advertisementLongtime Cladrite Radio readers and listeners will recall that the sharing of the B. C. Clark jingle is something of a Christmas tradition here. 2017 marks the ninth year we’ve spread the holiday spirit in this fashion.

Anyone who grew (or is currently growing) up in the Oklahoma City area knows that it’s just not the Christmas season until you’ve heard the B. C. Clark jingle on television or the radio at least once.

Below are two versions of the jingle—the original, which is admittedly of lower audio quality, and a later version—the one currently heard on radio and TV in the Oklahoma City area—which arguably sounds a bit better, but drops one line late in the song (“The Christmas wish of B. C. Clark is to keep on pleasing you…”), because 30-second commercials had become the norm on local television.

B. C. Clark, for the non-Okies among you, is a jewelry retailer that’s been in operation in the Sooner State since 1892, and since 1956 (a bit outside Cladrite Radio’s typical time frame, but we’re stretching a point for the holidays), they’ve been running the aforementioned jingle advertising their annual sale, which takes place not after Christmas, like most stores (or so the jingle’s lyrics insist), but just before. And here’s a fun fact: the good folks at B. C. Clark paid just $300 for the jingle back in the day—that’s $2,681.12 in 2017 dollars, a pretty sweet bargain for a jingle that’s been a favorite of Oklahomans everywhere for more than six decades.

So for 62 years, denizens of central Oklahoma have been humming along to this catchy ditty, and it’s our pleasure to share this holiday highlight with folks from other parts of the country (and around the world).

But be forewarned—listen more than two or three times, and you’ll be hooked, no matter how far away you live from the nearest B.C. Clark location. And soon, as with the millions of Okies who have come to associate this venerable jingle with the Christmas season, you’ll come to feel that it just isn’t the holidays until you’ve heard the jingle once or twice (or a dozen times).

Happy 94th Birthday, Cathy O’Donnell

Actress Cathy O’Donnell was born Ann Steely in Siluria, Alabama, on July 6, 1923. Her teaming with Farley Granger in the film noir classic They Live by Night (1948) made for one of the most memorable (and heartbreaking) romantic pairings in the history of the movies.

Happy birthday, Ms. O’Donnell, wherever you may be.

Here are 10 things you should know about Cathy O’Donnell…

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