The Elegant Kay Francis in a Most Extraordinary Hat

January 29, 2009

Before I started my sketch, I looked online to see which Kay Francis movies were available on DVD, that way I could choose one to write about when I posted the sketch, and stew over what I'd write whilst sketching. Well, to my utter horror, there are only about five Kay Francis movies on DVD and none of them are her best. In two of the five I could find she isn't even the only female lead. TCM honored Kay Francis last year with a "Star of the Month" salute in which they played about 50 of her films. I thought, "gee whiz, how ever will I narrow this down to recommend one or two?! Which films will I write about when she was in so many great ones?" and then - boom! - not even five percent of those movies are on DVD.

None of the movies available showcase Kay Francis at her best, which was in soapy melodramas with gigantic wardrobes and lots of tears. However, there is one movie on DVD in which she co-stars (but actually plays second fiddle to Miriam Hopkins) - Trouble in Paradise. A feisty little pre-code movie that has the signature Lubitsch touch, Trouble in Paradise co-stars Herbert Marshall as a suave, debonair jewel thief who woos the very wealthy Kay Francis. It's a cinematic treasure, and worth seeing-- if only because it might be your only chance to see Kay Francis until someone finally releases all of her starring vehicles on DVD.

Time really hasn't been good to Kay Francis. In the 1930's she was actually one of the biggest stars in Hollywood. In fact, her salary was so large that her studio began thinking of ways to get her to cancel her contract just so that they wouldn't have to pay her anymore. They began casting her in bit parts, or poorly written b-pictures. They loaded her scripts with words that started with "r" because they knew she had trouble pronouncing it. But Kay didn't give in-- she took the bad parts, annunciated her r's and finished her contract. Unfortunately, as Robert Osborne explained in TCM's Now Playing Kay Francis issue, this is probably why we don't remember her as well today. In standing up for her right fulfill the contract, she actually let herself slowly fade away..


Millie said...

That sketch is amazing! It totally looks like Kay!

Unknown said...

Thanks Millie :)