8 Most Fascinating People


By Kay Francis as told to Ben Maddox.

Originally appeared in the April 1935 issue of Modern Screen.


I CAN think of just eight people in Hollywood who are intriguing. That is to me, anyway.

In my five years here I have been introduced to nearly all of the “big names” in the movie colony, either on studio sets or socially. I’ve heard the inside stories about practically all those who matter. And I am including not only actors, but the workers behind the scenes.

I am not a blasé, an ungrateful cynic, either. Indeed I am thrilled to be among those present in pictures today, for automatically this puts me in contact with so many exceptionally interesting men and women. I frankly adore the stimulation that knowing them gives me.

But with all respect to my personal friends, and I rate myself lucky in having quite a few who are grand, regular sports, only one whom I know really well goes in my group of Hollywood’s most intriguing people. And in this very special class I number one whom I’ve never succeeded in meeting.

Perhaps I first should explain my term.

You find many who are attractive; you like them because an inexplicable bond of sympathy and understanding links them to you. There are certain persons whom you admire for their accomplishments; others whose characters draw your respect.

By intriguing, however, I mean something more than all that. I reserve this distinction for those who fascinate me, for those who have a strangely provocative quality that perpetually enchants me.

When you stop to carefully consider all the people in your own sphere, how many could you truthfully say possess this rare characteristic?

As I stated, I can think of only eight in all of Hollywood.

I choose Fred Astaire because his quiet humor piques my fancy. He always has a sly twinkle in his eyes and you are never quite sure of what’s going on in his rapier-like brain. There is a calm sweetness about him that isn’t in the least sappy. You sense that behind his unassuming manner is real power.

He never reveals much about himself, but when he does care to talk he has something worth saying. I can’t think of any other man who is so kind and so gentle, and yet who has such a steely determination hidden within.

A hard worker with a serious attitude towards his inner particular line, his shyness, his charm, and his unquestioned ability as a dancer combine to make him a thoroughly captivating man in my estimation.

One more important thing to his credit. I have been so pleased with the way he has behaved in Hollywood. He came here a world-famous stage star and wasn’t temperamental when the movies cast him in a small, supporting role. A genuine trouper, he relied on merit to bring him his deserved attention. Nor did he discourse wildly on his private life to gain publicity.

I pick Joan Blondell because her amazing forthrightness fascinates me. It pervades her every move. And this proves right off that being mysterious is not a requisite for easing into this group. Joan meets life fact to face and endeavors to conceal nothing.archives8fascinatingpeople2

Her honesty is so wonderfully consistent. Her wholesomeness, the fact that she is such a devoted wife and mother—these are subordinate reasons for my being intrigued by her. Primarily it’s her lack of artifices and complexes that thrills me. It’s an achievement to be one hundred percent sincere and frank.

I don’t know Joan well, but I feel that she must have a whirlwind temper when she’s imposed upon. I fancy that, with all her sweetness, there is terrific fight in her and that she’d battle to the last ditch for anyone she loves. And she wouldn’t care what happened to herself. I shouldn’t want to ever get her mad at me!

And then I nominate Jimmy Cagney because he simply enchants me on the screen. He is my favorite actor and so I’ll admit I may be prejudiced! It’s an instinctive liking that I have for him. I often try to analyze his appeal. He isn’t handsome. But every single muscle of his seems to be taut. Jimmy is like a leopard, ready to spring. I sit through all his pictures twice because I get such a kick out of watching him.

Because his film personality “gets” me he is to me a fascinating person. We are only casual acquaintances and I run into him just at the studio and at actors’ meetings and parties. He is astonishingly quiet and modest, a strange contrast to that fiery self the camera tempts forth. I guess it’s a good thing he isn’t as devastating “off” as “on,” for Cagney in celluloid is irresistible to me!

Next comes Greta Garbo. She is the one on my list whom I have not yet met. One day I was driving down the boulevard when I caught a glimpse of Garbo’s back. She was striding the other way and it was the first and only time I’ve ever seen her in person. If I hadn’t been terribly late for an appointment, I would have turned around and gone chasing right after her to see exactly what she’s like.

She is alluring to me because she is so beautiful on the screen and I want to learn whether she is as glamorous in reality. There’s a different quality about Garbo that no one can copy. I feel that although she is giving everything when she expresses her emotions for a film scene, she simultaneously is a woman apart from everyone and everything. She is alone.

Of course I have heard a lot about her through mutual friends. And her avoidance of publicity hasn’t whet my interest in the slightest. I don’t give a hang whether she’s brilliant or dumb, or whether it’s a magnificent act she’s putting on about wanting to be alone.

I BELIEVE that Garbo has utilized all kinds of artificialities to enhance her film glamour. But so skillfully that she gives the impression of being a stern realist. She exudes beauty and strength.

My one close friend who strikes me as intriguing is Frances Goldwyn, wife of Sam Goldwyn, the producer. Her love of life overwhelms me. I’ve never encountered anyone with such a zest for living. She appreciates everything she has; she squeezes the good from each waking moment and detests going to bed for fear she’ll miss something.

Possessing great firmness of character, a brilliant mind, wholesomeness and sophistication, she also has an elegantly ridiculous sense of humor as the final touch. She understands people as well as anyone I’ve ever known. She’s one of the best wives and mothers I know. But it’s her unfailing vitality and enthusiasm that delight me most.

A director, W.S. Van Dyke, follows on my lineup. He is a Richard Harding Davis character. As hard as nails, a hardboiled hombre, he is at the same time sincerely thoughtful of others. To me he’s a steel strap with a brain allowing for reservations as to when it should snap.

Van Dyke happens to be a movie director. He is a kindred spirit to a Foreign Legionnaire. A leader of men, a soldier of fortune, he is truly adventurous in this modern, tame world. His kindness is unexpected and so all the more potent. Virile, dominating, he has tramped the by-paths of the world and, somehow, this seeps through.

The fourth man in Hollywood, who is intriguing is neither actor, director, or executive. He is Perc Westmore, the makeup genius. He excites me because he is a man who started from the bottom and built up a splendid organization and yet has time to be absolutely crazy about children. Great tenderness in a self-made success is a very bewildering quality to me.

Very thorough, extraordinarily conscientious, Perc has gathered about him in his business, people who are nice as well as artistic and capable. That’s a reflection on his own intrinsic worth, in my estimation.

But I can’t get away from his love for children. He has three, two of whom are adopted, and his love for them is marvelous. It denotes much that is beyond mere words.

THE other woman, among all the women of Hollywood, is Anna May Wong. She stands out head and shoulders above the crows because of the fine manner in which she has handled her personal life. Anna May’s exotic, Oriental appearance; her lovely fact, hands, and figure are unique in their allure. She is in a class by herself.

Yet it is her sane rise that somehow stimulates me. I don’t know her intimately, but I believe that she, more than any woman in pictures, has made the best of her opportunities. So few do, it seems. Here in Hollywood, in New York, and in London, Anna May is a gracious person. Thanks solely to her own efforts, for she easily could have gone berserk. Her problems were peculiarly complicated but she wasn’t daunted in the least.

And there you have them–!

It’s really an intangible something that makes one intriguing, and it’s been difficult for me to find precisely the right words to explain why only these eight strike my fancy as qualifying for this distinction in Hollywood.

My choice may not be correct. It may bring a flood of rebuke down upon my head. But, at least, I’ve dared to be perfectly candid about the Hollywoodites whim I honestly like and deeply admire!

Archives Main Page