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…

I’ll Say She Is: The Show That Made the Marx Brothers

Gimme a Thrill--The Story of I'll Say She Is book cover
Many movie buffs and vintage pop culture aficionados know that the Marx Brothers worked in vaudeville for many years before breaking big on Broadway. Their second and third Broadways plays, The Cocoanuts and Animal Crackers, were adapted for their first two motion pictures, but the Broadway revue that made the Marxes stars, I’ll Say She Is, which opened at the Casino Theatre at 39th and Broadway in 1924, was never made into a movie; in fact, it was for decades a lost work. It has never been revived because no extant script was available, just bits and pieces.

That was until Noah Diamond, friend to Cladrite Radio and prenaturally talented individual (really, there’s nothing this guy can’t do), started researching this lost show with an eye toward reviving it for the first time in 90 years. He dug through the archives, finding snippets of dialogue, descriptions of the plot, sheet music for forgotten songs, etc., all in an attempt to piece together a more-than-reasonable facsimile of the Marxes’ first great triumph.

Noah’s efforts have finally paid off, as his recreation of I’ll Say She Is is finally receiving a fully mounted off-Broadway production in a mere matter of weeks (previews start May 28, opening night is June 2). But you needn’t wait till then to immerse yourself in the world of I’ll Say She is: Gimme a Thrill: The Story of I’ll Say She Is, The Lost Marx Brothers Musical, and How It Was Found, Noah’s engaging and informative account of the long march toward recreating and reviving the show is now available—in your choice of hard- and softcover—from BearManor and can be ordered now from your favorite online vendor and better bricks-and-mortar bookstores everywhere.

If you’ve an interest in the Marx Brothers (and who doesn’t?), Broadway history, show biz lore (or all of the above), you’ll want to own this delightful and informative account of how this once-lost show has been restored and revived. Given that the man responsible for this happy reclamation also wrote the book, you’ll be getting the straight scoop from the horse’s mouth, so to speak.

Buy it for yourself, buy it for the Marx Brothers fans in your life, buy it for us (as our copy will surely be worn out in short order)!

And if you want the REALLY complete story of I’ll Say She Is, don’t miss the next chapter in its history, May 28 through July 2 at the Connelly Theater; tickets on sale now at illsaysheis.com!

Spend New Year’s Eve with the Marxes & the Charleses

What are you doing New Year’s Eve? We’re not referencing the classic song of that name (a favorite of ours, by the way); we’re asking the question. Because Turner Classic Movies has arranged a day of programming that, for our money, negates any need to even think of joining the inebriated hordes who’ll be out on the town, paying too much to have too little fun. Stay home instead, and enjoy the Marx Brothers all day and Nick and Nora Charles (and Asta, too) all night!

The Marx Brothers‘ first—and finest—seven pictures will air (slightly out of order, which is a bit of a head-scratcher) beginning at 8:15 a.m. ET, followed by all six Thin Man movies (which are being shown in proper order) beginning at 8 p.m. ET.

It’s nearly 23 hours of programming, so you’ll want to get plenty of rest tonight.

New Year's Eve -- Duck Soup and After the Thin Man posters

In Your Hat, pt. 11

In Chapter 11 of In Your Hat, the 1933 tell-all memoir by Hat Check Girl to the Stars Renee Carroll, she shares tales of various characters she knew, including Jack Oakie, The Four Marx Brothers, Wilson Mizner, George Jessel, Harry Richman, Clara Bow, and Lilyan Tashman.

SARDI’S may be the place where the celebrities gather, but I get more slugs and buttons in my tip box than I can use in a year’s mending. Figure it out for yourself—the most highly paid performers and theatrical executives slip me slugs I wouldn’t even try on my molars to find out if they’re real or not.
And speaking of tipping and the things I find in my box at the end of the day, one of the most common phenomena are the little slips of paper upon which telephone numbers have been scribbled. I’ve got, or rather, I could have collected a private phone list than the Manhattan police department, not to mention the Broolynites and Bronxites who have been date-hungry.
Maybe I’m wrong, and that’s only one way of kidding me. Another way is the method Jack Oakie used, to make me feel like the butt of a bad joke.
Jack came into the restaurant one day and asked me in his really-not-obnoxious breezy manner how things were going. Just for the fun of it, I told him that I was going to get married the next day. I had no more idea of getting married, then, than the girl in the swing on the big Pepsodent sign. As some wit once said, marriage is an institution, and hwo wants to live in an institution?

But that clown of clowns, that zanie Oakie, set to work and circulated among Sardi’s guests, telling all his friends that I was an expectant mother. When people started to leave the place, I noticed that no one was looking me directly in the eyes, but instead were looking down at me and at the same time talking in a sort of reverentially hushed tone—the kind I gather that people assume when they accost young mothers-to-be.
I didn’t suspect then what was happening, but the next morning when packages began to arrive by every means of transportation except the pony express, I began to smell a good-sized rodent in Mr. Oakie’s direction. For people were sending me baby clothes—dresses, bibs, caps, towels, and all the other accessories necessary to have babies. The pay-off came when Oakie’s package arrived. It contained a dozen towels, stolen from a Pullman, three napkins from three different hotels and a couple of table cloths from a club. All of the Oakie presents were cut into reminiscent triangular shapes—with the names of the places from which they were filched neatly embroidered in the corner of each pseudo-diaper.
But the height of pure nuttiness was achieved by the Four Marx Brothers when they were making Animal Crackers and The Cocoanuts at the Astoria studio for Paramount.

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