All posts by M.O.

Gotham’s Gift to Hollywood

Gotham’s Gift to Hollywood

Kay Francis from Broadway Conquers the Film Colony

By John Engstead
Originally appeared in Screenland, September 1929

Right now, one girl has Hollywood in the palm of her hand. Everyone who knows her, women as well as men, immediately falls into her legion of boosters. Everyone who hasn’t met her—well, that’s just his loss. She’s Kay Francis, a lovely New York stage girl, who has crashed Hollywood in a big way. Six months ago, she had seen only two silent pictures in her life and hated them both. She never gave talking pictures a thought until a friend at the Paramount Long Island Studios suggested a screen test for a leading role in “Gentlemen of the Press.” The only difficulty which lay between her and the part was the fact that the executives, the director, the authors and the supervisors of the production had definitely decided to find a blonde for the same role. There was one showing of the Francis test. The result was that this black’ haired, green-eyed girl made her first appearance on the screen in the feminine lead in “Gentlemen of the Press.” Kay’s just that way—instantaneous!

After finishing a role in “The Cocoanuts,” it was only natural that she be sent to Hollywood. As word gets around, the whole Paramount studio learned of Kay Francis the day she arrived. Groups of executives, directors and writers who stopped to talk on the lot, lost all track of conversation when she approached. Office boys delivered packages to the wrong desks when she passed. Other stars watched her out of the corners of their eyes. No one has ever been able to pass this girl without looking at her twice.

She leaves an indelible impression. Her hair is done in a sleek bob revealing her ears. Her eyes are not so enormous as those possessed by some of the cultivated motion picture beauties. Her mouth is not a cupid’s bow nor does it have a bee-stung contour. But men just love to look into the Francis face and talk to her.

Her voice is low, gay and changes with her moods. She uses it beautifully. She doesn’t have one of those baby giggles. Hers is an impressive laugh—yet nothing marvelous. But men have been known to miss prize-fights to listen to the Francis laugh. As for prize-fights — they’re just along Kay’s avenue. She’s had time to see just one of the fights in Hollywood since her arrival. They say, that the night she attended, so far as the women in the audience were concerned, there wasn’t any fight at all. They were busy watching the Francis style—trying to figure out how she managed to put all the people in all the parts of the country, which she touched, under her spell.

No one has yet seen Kay Francis in the same dress twice. She always wears tightfitting hats with modernistic lines and folds around her face. Her gowns fit. She prefers to wear evening clothes. She loves black. She uses just one piece of jewelry with a costume. Leaving most of her wardrobe in New York, she brought three trunks and eleven suitcases of only spring and summer clothes to Hollywood. That’s why Kay Francis has been called “the best dressed woman in America.”

She’s been in the West just about one month. She has given excellent account of herself in Clara Bow’s “Dangerous Curves,” made a trip to San Francisco, appeared in Charles ‘Budy’ Rogers’ starring vehicle, “Illusion,” and now has a featured role in Paramount’s “Behind the Makeup.”

If any of the Hollywood property men object to actresses who ask for drinks of water, food, chairs and stoves every minute, they should be on a Kay Francis picture. She’s regular—Gotham’s gift to the workingman! She’s the only actress ever known to try to help a garage man fix her flat tire in order that she be at the studio on time. She’s heaven to the portrait photographer. She’s the only actress, star or ‘bit’ player, whoever moved a small chair for herself in the portrait gallery of the studio when she knew it was necessary before the next picture could be taken. She’s the only actress who has ever volunteered to adjust one side of a small rug while the photographer managed the other side. She doesn’t mind having her picture taken with new railroad engines, in gag hats or on top of floats.

Around the studio, people always know Kay Francis is approaching before they see her. A definite walk is heard and then her low, rich voice scolding Snifter, her tiny puppy, for biting her hand too hard. Snifter is quite a favorite with his mistress because he is the first and only dog she ever owned. Despite his six weeks’ age, Snifter has also had a career. He was acting in pictures the day Miss Francis passed a dog fancier’s shop in Hollywood. But Snifter’s sister, sitting in the window attracted attention. Before Kay ever saw the tiny Scottie dog, he belonged to her. His name is an original idea from William Powell.

This young Francis girl has very definite ideas about living in Hollywood. One thing, she is going to save money. She lives in a bungalow with her colored maid, Ida. The latter, just as all people Kay has around her, has quite a personality. The actress stopped in Chicago and collected Ida on her way to Hollywood. The day Miss Francis arrived she bought a Ford roadster, the first car she ever owned, and named it Rabbit. Five hours after completing work on “Dangerous Curves,” Kay Francis, Caddie Stewart, a school chum, and Snifter left to see the famous Golden Gate in the Rabbit.

Except for a couple of speed cops, several flat tires and dogs not being allowed in three hotels, they had a great time. She knows they would have been asked to pay a fine or leave Fresno if she hadn’t stopped Snifter from scaring all the peacocks in the city park.

Kay says she’s a careful driver but admits that she is still a little bewildered by all the traffic laws. She doesn’t understand how it happened but somewhere in the middle of California the Rabbit was followed through three towns by a speed cop in another Ford. Finally, he overtook the girls and informed the actress that she was traveling 62 miles an hour by schoolhouses, exceeding the speed limit at street crossings, passing at intersections, riding in the middle of the road, was a reckless driver and had passed ten cars in three miles. Both she and Caddie pleaded they’d only been in California three weeks and hadn’t learned every rule yet. But with a ticket checked on several scores, the Rabbit wandered into the county seat of Lexington, California. After several inquiries, they found the judge in his court at the rear of the library. Less lots of energy wasted talking to the judge, $25 and two hours’ time, the girls in the Rabbit leaped on only to be stopped a couple of miles farther by another officer of the law. Not that she was speeding or driving recklessly, but had just passed a boulevard stop with- out stopping. They pleaded and explained and finally, with a black mark against them, this speed cop let the party continue. But not until he cranked their car and pushed it out of some sand.

In San Francisco, three hotels refused to take Snifter into their suites and thereby lost the distinction of housing Kay Francis. After going to Yosemite, circling mountain roads for hours at top speed in order to make a control and then missing it and having two flat tires, the Rabbit turned toward Hollywood and Kay to her career.

Oklahoma City is going to be flooded with newspaper stories when “Behind the Makeup” shows in that city. Not so many years ago, Kay was born in the Oklahoma town. During her early childhood, she lived in Santa Barbara, California, Los Angeles, and Denver. When she was four years old, her mother brought her to New York City. The mother, Katherine Clinton, well-known repertoire player, went back to the stage and Kay was sent to school.

After finishing school, Kay entered a secretarial college in New York City and learned typewriting and shorthand because her mother wasn’t overly anxious for her to become an actress. Instead of getting a job as a stenographer, she took a trip to Europe and spent eight months abroad seeing France, Holland and England. On her return trip she determined to go on the stage. Her mother was not exactly opposed to the move but allowed Kay to make her way on her own merits. Kay engineered the part of a lady-in-waiting for the modern version of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.” By imagining that she once played in vaudeville, in a Kansas City stock company and in amateur theatricals and by telling the producers of her imagination, Kay was given the role of the queen. A small part, but nevertheless, a starter. The next five months, she spent as a ‘disciple,” the name of a young person starting in the theatrical world, in Stuart Walker’s stock companies in the middle west. In Cincinnati she met David Newell, who is now also under contract to Paramount. They both played ‘bits’ one week and leads the next. They both appeared in “Dangerous Curves” as their first roles in Hollywood.

Returning to New York, Kay appeared in “Venus,” “Crime,” and “Elmer the Great.” Not long after, talking pictures and Hollywood entered her life.

As for her personal self, she’s been in love several times. At present there is no one in New York or Hollywood to whom she is engaged or even knows very well. If she remains in Hollywood, her mother and all of her clothes will be shipped west. She likes Hollywood quite a lot even if she hasn’t had time to find out what’s inside of giant ice cream freezers, windmills, ice’ bergs and freak buildings in Southern California.

She was born on Friday the thirteenth in the thirteenth month of her mother’s marriage. But to Kay Francis, thirteen, black cats, ladders and all that stuff is good luck.

Kay’s just that way—okay!

If I Were Poor


By Julie Lang Hunt

From the July 1935 issue of MODERN SCREEN

[Note: This article took direct quotes from Kay as well as Jeanette MacDonald, Ginger Rogers and Claudette Colbert. I just typed up the part which regarded Kay’s opinions on the issue.]


archivesifiwerepoorKAY FRANCIS would meet our twenty-five dollar-a-week challenge with an “accessory wardrobe.”

“I could manage to hold my own in any fashionable circle with exactly three well chosen costumes,” she told me. “However, each of the three costumes would do triple duty and do it with chic and eclat by the sheer sorcery of the accessory plan.”

Kay is absurdly proud of her suggestion, because she made it to work throughout the entire Hollywood season when an overcrowded picture schedule precluded shopping forays. All this occurred about three years ago when Kay was winning her first recognition from all the prominent Parisian couturiers as Hollywood’s best dressed woman. During that very winter, she made one black crepe frock see her through every formal and semi-formal engagement, and one gray suit and a black afternoon dress meet all her daytime sartorial needs. She actually led the film colony’s fashion race with three outfits.

And that is why Kay can offer you this amazingly shrewd set of wardrobe blueprints. She says:

“I would manage somehow from my twenty-five-dollar salary one good suit for business wear. It would be made to measure because that is the only way to purchase any tailored garment. I would have my dressmaker or tailor add to the usual jacket and skirt, a jumper of the same material, this turning my skirt into a trim, two-piece frock for the office.

“Instead of expensive and perishable blouses, I would select several light-weight jersey sweaters in bright and dark colors, and one silk blouse shot with metal threads to dress up the suit for luncheon and matinee dates. This would give me one tailored suit, a two-piece frock and one semi-dress outfit.

“The second garment of my three costume collection, would be an afternoon frock and it would be in a color complementary to the suit so that the hats, gloves and shoes could be interchangeable. If the suit were black, oxford gray or navy, I would have this frock in black or gray.

“This outfit should be in a two-piece affair because the dress you can divide into two equal parts is the one that lends itself gracefully to the magic of the accessories. There should be one pair of inexpensive but well-made clips to change the neckline of this frock, and there should be one three-quarter length tunic of a contrasting shade, preferably a bright jewel color with which the outfit is entirely transfigured. And then because there is that blessed separate skirt, I would sometimes wear it with my silk metal-shot blouse for informal Sunday evening occasions, the movies, the bridge gettogethers.

“And now we come to the even frock, which is so important to the girl with many dates and a slim income. It should be black, this evening gown, and not too extreme in cut to help defy that “dated” look after its first season. I should own a long-sleeved jacket of the same material, or if I could afford it, and extra metal cloth jacket. When worn with my little coat, the deeply décolletage formal becomes the perfect dinner costume.

“To my jacket I would sometimes add a bright scarf or emerald green or wine red satin and I would tie it Ascot fashion for extra dash. I would find a small cluster of dark red carnations and pin them on the lapel of the dinner jacket (when the scarf is not worn) and I could transfer these flowers with gratifying results to the tailored lapel of my suit.

“For those big nights when my black down must do formal duty, I would collect two or three bright and enormous flowers to change the effect of the waist, the shoulder line and the very back of the décolletage. I might even buy a remnant of brilliant silk and swathe it about the waist and let the ends fall down the back in a gay train. I would certainly treat myself to one enormous clip that could be effectively snapped at varying points of the neckline and waistline and would look effective against a black background.”

Kay Francis believes in her accessory plan. She knows that she can carry it out tomorrow, if necessary, and still walk the ranks of the impeccably groomed. She knows all this because even in the very midst of Hollywood’s unbridled extravagance she has made this three-costume accessory wardrobe function, for her, and function, I might add, beautifully.

Archives Main Page


It’s Thrilling to be an Actress


By Faith Service

From the July 1935 issue of MODERN SCREEN.

I SAID to Kay, “Isn’t it thrilling, really, to be an actress?”

archivesitsthrillingKay’s moonstone eyes in the camellia whiteness of her face focused on me in that soft, sometimes unseeing look of hers. She said, “Thrilling to be an actress? Why, I’d never thought about it. But—yes, thrilling…” And the word thrilling seems thrilling when Kay says it in that velvety, throbbing voice of hers.

She said, “It’s thrilling, but not, to me at any rate, in the way you probably think. It’s thrilling to me, first and foremost, for this reason—because all women love to be loved and a screen actress is loved, not by one or a dozen, but by thousands and even millions all over the world. It is thrilling because all women love to be admired and even envied by other women and a screen actress, deservedly or not, is admired and envied by legions of other women.

“It’s thrilling to me to go to sleep at night and feel that all over the world people are seeing me and caring about me. It’s being more alive than I’ve ever been before. It’s being more conscious of my own existence. It’s so warm, this feeling. All of life is magnified. All of love is multiplied…It is truly thrilling.”

Just at that moment, Kay was called back to the set.

I had approached the set, where “Living on Velvet” was being made, a few moments before. And I had seen, as I neared the set, the figure of Kay, swathed in mink, and by her side, elegant in evening attire, gone a little gray and the more devastating because of it, sat George Brent.

Ha, I thought, I’ll bet it’s thrilling to be an actress! Mink—George Brent—what more do you want? No wonder pretty little stenographers and small-town Susans envy the Kays and the Joans as they pull on dollar-ninety-five sweaters, hold hands with gas station Galahads and sigh, “There, but for the grace of God, I go!”

I reached the set, all primed to ask my question about the supreme thrillingness of being an actress. Kay and George were perched on teetery stools at what was built to resemble a “Quick Lunch” counter. They were dunking doughnuts in coffee. Back of the counter stood Edgar Kennedy, regarding them with a cold and fishy eye. They themselves wore looks of despair (and dyspepsia) under their studio makeups. Director Frank Borzage amiably was enjoying them to remember that this scene was a comedy, not a tragedy, as it appeared!

There was a pause in the scene, during which Kay and I had the few words recorded above. Then came another pause while the crew made ready for the next take. Kay and George bolted to the nearest exit to remove from their mouths the last bite of doughnut. They came back to me, saying weakly, “We have eaten sixty-nine doughnuts since morning! We have eaten doughnuts in silent shots, in the sound shots, in the close-ups, in the process shots. We are still eating doughnuts. We are going to continue eating doughnuts…”

GEORGE SAID, reflectively, “There was that woman who yawned for eight days—she was front page news—“

Kay murmured, “We have eaten doughnuts for eight hours—“

George observed dispassionately and to no one in particular, “Doughnuts to you!” and strolled off to his dressing room and soda bicarb.

Kay, released from doughnutting for half an hour, took me off to a couple of camp chairs, a glass of water and a pair of companionable cigarettes. She sank down beside me.

I called to her doughnut-distracted mind the question before the house. I said firmly, “But it is thrilling to be an actress, isn’t it? You know, the old glamour stuff, the backstage mystery. Lovely ladies who are pulled through the streets in their carriages by human hands…gallant gentlemen who die with a white glove crumpled in their hands… temperament, freedom, fever… that sort of thing?”

Kay regarded me with a jaunted eye. I am afraid she murmured, “Doughnuts…”

She rallied and said, “I suppose so. The great thrill to me is as I have told you… the warm feeling of being cared about by thousands of people. Some few of them have names and identities, most of them have not. But they are there—absent lovers—and I am conscious of them. There is one young girl in England who has written me daily for years. She works and saves a great part of her money, I am afraid, to send me charming and thoughtful gifts. That is the sort of thing I mean. In the ordinary walks of life, if we have half a dozen real friends and perhaps a dozen ‘admirers,’ we are very fortunate—and very popular. An actress multiples these friends and these admirers almost innumerably. There is no sensation in the world, no thrill in the world comparable to the thrill of being loves.

I SUPPOSE I’d never thought much about the thrill part of it because the thrills an actress is supposed to have are not thrills to me. In the first place my mother, Katherine Clinton, was an actress. I was brought up in a world of theatre talk and theatre people. The mystery was matter-of-fact to me.

“The other so called thrills are terrors to me. I am shy. I am easily embarrassed. I would loathe having my carriage drawn through the public streets by human hands. The equivalent of that in our day and way is being besieged by autograph seekers in public places. I am grateful for the interest that prompts that seeking of course, but I am too frightened and self-conscious to get any authentic thrill out of it.

“I loathe all of the trimmings. I hate the publicity part of it. I’m afraid of interviews. I detest posing for pictures. I despise fittings yet I’ve been called one of the ‘best dressed women of the screen,’ which always hands me a laugh, seeing as how I never wear anything but pajamas or last year’s sports clothes when I’m not working. I probably care less for clothes, for shopping, than any woman in the world. I wouldn’t go shopping on a bet unless I have to.

“I like to be comfortable but luxury per se has no appeal to me. I still prefer lamb chops to any form of dietary delicacy. I always drive my old Ford around by myself. I have a nice house with some nice things I care about in it but it is the kind of house that any competent business girl could have if she wanted to.

“I never do anything about my personal appearance. I mean, I eat anything I want to eat, and if I do gain an extra pound or two, I never know it. I never go in for a beauty parlor stuff. I never have massages or facials. Sunshine and fresh air and keeping my face clean are my ‘Helpful Hints to Beauty.’ I like to play tennis, bridge and backgammon. I like to watch football games and sixty-day bicycle races. I adore to read detective stories. I spend every available spare moment on my schooner, the ‘Pamet-Head.’ I have two dogs, two cats, a parrot, a rabbit, a canary, some gold fish, some very refined frogs.

YOU may want to know what all this has to do with the thrill of being an actress? Just this: the things that make up my personal life could easily be a part of any moderately successful woman’s life. The thrills that are popularly supposed to belong to an actress—orchid-like cultivation of one’s beauty, sensational public appearances, gorgeous clothes with intensive time and attention given to them, diets of caviar and peacock’s tongues, night clubs and all the rest of the glitter and glamour are not my thrills at all.

“But,” said Kay, “I have my thrills. My kind of thrills. I’ve told you about the greatest of them all. There are others. Being an actress is a job to me. And right there is where my next big thrill rears its startling head. It’s thrilling to me to have a job. Any kind of a job in these difficult days. I’m grateful for it. Grateful that I’m independent, able to do for myself, beholden to no one. I’m even more grateful and more thrilled that I’m able to do pleasant things for my mother and for others I’m fond of.”

Speaking of doing things for those others she is fond of, reminds me of an odd predilection of Kay’s. She never gives Christmas presents. That is, not on Christmas. She says that Christmas is a very sacred festival to her and that she feels it should be kept sacred and kept—a festival. And that this very spirit is being murdered by the hard, commercial spirit of commercial exchange which has crept into the world of late. The calculating spirit of “She or he is going to give me something and I’ll have to return it in kind.” And so Kay does it all differently. All through the year, all of the time, she sends a gift to this friend or that, whenever she happens to see something she knows that friend will really care about. If such a gift happens to present itself around Christmas time, all right. But if it happens to come her way in May or June or July, she sends it then. I like that, don’t you?

“And then,” Kay was saying, the pale smoke from her cigarette making a mist about her night-black head, “and then there is the thrill of knowing that I am contributing my small share to the entertainment and pleasure of thousands of people. I am one of those who may be said to have a ‘Mission in Life.’ And I believe in helping people to take their minds off themselves and their own problems, even for a little alleviating space of time.

“Oh, I’ve had one or two of the expected thrills, too, of course. Anyone who can eat sixty-nine doughnuts in the course of a morning is human, all too human. I had a thrill when I first saw my name on a four sheet, for instance. I was going by train, I remember, from Los Angeles to San Francisco. On the way up, I happened to glance out of the window, and there on the billboards, as tall as the sky, was the name KAY FRANCIS in—whatever the picture was. I’ve forgotten. But I’ve not forgotten that I did feel a very genuine thrill.

THERE was the time when I bought my first, and only, mink coat. This one. Like most other girls and women, I’d dreamed of the day when I should own a mink coat of my own. Back in the days when I was doing secretarial work, when I was working in the real work, when I was working in the real estate office, even when I was ‘just a housewife.’ I’d see a lovely, sumptuous ladies swishing about in mink and things. I’d sigh, and wonder whether I, too, might own a mink…! Then the day came when I could. I gave many days to it, as a matter of fact, I shopped that time. I compared mink with mink. I determined to have nothing but the best. I got it—and the real thrill was not so much the mink coat, as the fact that I was buying it for myself!

“Having a job, independence is a real thrill to me, you see. I’d feel the same way about any work I might happen to be doing so long as it was my work and I was making my own money and standing on my own two feet.

“Independence is the supreme thrill—it is the one I am working for. And when I have it, I shall retire from the screen. Yes, I know…everyone has said that and no one ever does it. But I shall. I might, in my retirement, make a picture or do a play, now and again, if I was asked to. But for all practical, day-by-day purposes I shall be retired. I’ll live simply. I’ll travel, I’ll read, I’ll have my schooner. Then, and only then, will the real thrill of being an actress come home to me—when it has become the thrill of having been an actress!

“I get a thrill out of my mother’s thrills. The first time my name was ever on Broadway in electric lights, my Mother went down to that theater and walked around the block a dozen times, just so she could look at it. She even took a camera with her and made a picture of it…”

Kay smiled, that rich and luscious smile of hers. She said, “I hope I haven’t disappointed you. I should have been able to tell you feverish tales of lovers and rendezvous—of freedom to live my own life—and temperament—of trysts and orchids and gold bath tubs and champagne massages—but we work too hard to have many rendezvous. We have less freedom than any other group of people in the world. If we have a little fit of temperament, it is front page news within the hour. Happiness is difficult to snare and to secure because happiness roots best in peace—and there is no peace. Orchids and gold bath tubs and champagne dips are the kind of thrills other people think we get. Perhaps some actresses do. I doubt it. That sort of thing is as old-fashioned as the gentlemen who died with white gloves in their hands…archivesitsthrilling1

“No, the thrill of being an actress is, to me, the thrill of being loved by more people than could ever have known of my existence otherwise. It is the thrill of having a job. It is the thrill of being able to make my mother’s life pleasanter than it might have been without me and my work. It is the thrill of believing that I am giving my small share to others. It is the supreme thrill of being more alive than I might have been if I did not live under a magnifying glass…”

A boy staggered by bearing six mammoth boxes. The air became redolent of doughnuts. George Brent beckoned, bleakly, from the set.

Kay trod out her cigarette with a white satin heel. She gathered her mink about her. She said, “If there is any thrill in death by doughnuts, I’ll let you know… farewell…”

Archives Main Page

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

Remedy For Heartbreak


By Katharine Hartley

Originally appeared in the January 1935 issue of Modern Screen.

To Europe sailed Kay seeking a panacea for heartbreak and loneliness—


IT was while Kay Francis was married to Kenneth MacKenna that I asked her what was her most sincere ambition. And it wasn’t one of those thought-out, “well, let me see” answers that she gave me. Her eyes lightened up, and the answer sprang from her heart.

“I want to be a good wife. That’s all. That’s the thing that’s most important. What do personal ambitions, material successes mean compared to the happiness of living and being loved? Nothing. At least they mean nothing to my kind of woman.”

And then, in less than a month, Kay was divorcing Kenneth MacKenna. It was the most surprising divorce of 1934, just as it had been the most surprising marriage three years ago, Mr. MacKenna abducted Kay from her hospital bed. Everyone had agreed that it was a marvelous marriage. How sensible and sane those two were about it. Hollywood just didn’t touch them. Kay had been married twice before, but the third one worked like a charm, and it was charming. And then it ended quickly and quietly and without much fuss in a divorce court!

Kay refused to talk about it. No writer ever really got the true story. There weren’t many lines printed about it because there was nothing to print. The world just shrugged its shoulders and said, “Oh, just another one of those Hollywood divorces. It doesn’t mean anything. That was her third, wasn’t it? Kay Francis will be married again before the year is over.”

And, indeed, it looked as though she would be. Kay was going places with Maurice Chevalier. And she was also smiling and acting gay as usual. A few of us who didn’t look very closely thought that she looked even happier than ever! Then Chevalier when to Europe, and a few weeks later Kay sailed for the same destination. The marriage will be any day now, the gossipers said. What an attractive couple! What a thrill for the American press! Kay denied it all, but she laughed and looked happy even when she said, “That’s absurd!” The reporters were even more certain they were right on track.

I was one of the fortunate few who talked to Kay the day before she left Hollywood for New York and points east. She had been giving interviews most of the day, and I was last on the list. But, during the first five minutes of our chat, she gave no indication that she was anything but her normal, vital, energetic self. We were discussing her part in “British Agent,” talking about how she had cut her wrist a few weeks before, talking about, oh, incidental things.

And then, in the midst of her apparent gayety, Kay passed her hands over her eyes and said, “Oh, I’m so tired.” Recovering herself quickly, she added, “Really, I’ve been talking about myself all day—and it’s a terrible strain.”

But she was pretending, and I knew it. She was pretending that it was just the pace of that one day had fatigued her, that it was the talking about herself that wearied her. In the flash of that second when she ceased to smile and look interested, in that pitiful transparency of her little excuse, I could see that it was far more than that that had made her weary. It wasn’t physical weariness that had got her. It wasn’t talking about herself that had bored her. It was far more likely not talking about herself—her real inner self—that had been the nerve-wracking strain.

I hunched the unhappiness in her heart at that moment, and the more I have thought about it since, the more sure I have been that just before Kay sailed for Europe, she was nearer to collapse than she had ever been in her life. Not a physical collapse. Not a moral collapse. Far worse than either of these, it was the staunch walls of her heart that were about to cave in, a heart that has had hoped for so much, worked for so much, and which has so little left!

“You must be looking forward to this marvelous trip of yours,” I ventured. “Imagine! A vacation of so many months, after so many years of hard work. Aren’t you thrilled, just thinking about it?”

“Oh, yes—yes,” she said. “Oh, yes it will be wonderful.” In a dull mechanical tone, in words that were like a speech rehearsed, she began to tell me about her plans. Her enthusiasm didn’t ring true.

I left shortly after that. And I felt sorry for Kay Francis. Why? I kept hearing her happy, ambitious, self-confident words of half a year ago. “I want to be a good wife. It’s important to my kind of woman.” My kind of woman. Let’s take a look at that for a moment and see what it means.

Kay has always been “different,” but not the kind of “different” so many actresses try to make themselves to be. Kay never strives for effect in her clothes, in her makeup, in her personal life, or even on the screen. She is a woman first, and an actress second. That sounds trite, because it’s been said so often about the wrong people. But it’s true of Kay Francis. Kay is one of the few women on the stage and screen who looks like a lay and is one without impressing you with the fact. She doesn’t put on airs for the elite, she doesn’t come down to the level of others. She is always the same to everybody.

Kay is—above everything else—a feminine person, a man’s woman, the romantic Dark Lady of the Sonnets. She has clung to her femininity and her softness while other actresses grow hardened by their careers, find ruling the roost much more intriguing than being a woman.

When Kay first married she was content to be a housewife as well as a sweetheart. She and Dwight Francis lived in a small town in the Berkshires, and she was happy with her heart quiet, small-town life for a while. But progressing a superior intellect she soon outgrew it. Kay went to work, so she might afford a cook. This does not mean that she sacrificed any of her femininity. As a matter of fact, her attractiveness increased by the day. She became social secretary, in turn, to Mrs. Dwight Morrow, Mrs. Minturn Pinchot and Mrs. W.K. Vanderbilt. Is it any wonder that her social graces multiplied, that she became more and more sure of herself!

Suppose you had married at seventeen, during that first flush of romance. And when, at nineteen, you realized that it had been only the first flush, that your ideas and ideals had changed, that you weren’t happy in your marriage of two years before. Kay had the good sense to see that such a marriage needed ending right then and there, before any more harm had been done. So she obtained her first divorce.

Then Kay fell in love again and married again—oh, with such high hopes this time. But this marriage, too, had flaws. It was one of those secret affairs and she was separated a great deal from her husband. What a disappointment to a girl just turned twenty. The companionship that she had dreamed of, the intimacy of ideas and hopes and thoughts that she wanted so much were denied her for months at a time. It was hopeless. Kay took this second beating bravely.

At last, Kay in what she thought was her maturity, found the real love of her life. And she married him. This was no hasty young marriage that really would be happy and lasting. Kay set herself at the task of keeping this marriage perfect. She counted on her past mistakes to help her. “I want to be a good wife,” she said. And deep down in her heart she was confident she was.

Then suddenly there was an end. She really didn’t know why herself.

“How is it my fault? Am I incapable of knowing my own heart? Am I fickle? Am I false” Or am I incapable of holding a man’s love?” These are the questions Kay must have asked of herself. “What is ahead of me?”

A mind goes in circles when it thinks like that. How can it help thinking like that, I don’t know. If Kay had been a child perhaps her heartbreak would be less. If she had a religion that, too, would be something to console her. Or if her career were her most intense interest, that would help.

But Kay hasn’t the mania for money or the bright lights for success. These things are really of little comfort to her. If only she could be blasé! She could then shrug her shoulders and say, “Well, better luck next time!” But she can’t be like that.

Yet she refuses to let anyone in on her sadness. You only catch it, as I caught it, in one of those rare moments when Kay lets her brave barriers down. I have heard her say that the most repulsive person is not a man with a big belly, but a man who bellyaches in a big way. Kay has had a gallant attitude towards hardships. She’s had them, but few people know about them, because she bluffed her way through. I am convinced that she was bluffing to the last and that she just got away in time. A few more weeks of trying to hide her heartbreak in Hollywood and she would have been a nervous wreck. You can’t even cry in your own room out here, for there’s always a servant who’d be glad to give you away. But on a boat, with the cabin door locked for hours at a time, who’s to tell whether she’s cried or not!

The odd think is that Kay went to Europe after the breakup of her first marriage. Her travels enriched and rested her for that first time. No doubt she is counting on them to give her a new vision and a happier perspective again. What she needs most of all is renewed confidence in herself, in love, in life. I hope she finds it. Maybe she’ll marry Mr. Chevalier. Maybe she won’t. Maybe she’ll never marry again. I, for one, certainly don’t pretend to know, or have any way of knowing. I don’t believe Kay even knows herself. This much is certain: she won’t come back to face Hollywood’s firing squad until she’s got her heart patched up so the cracks don’t show!

Maybe Kay wonders if her birthdate hasn’t something to do with all her “unluckiness at love.” In Oklahoma City an actress by the name of Katherine Clinton gave birth to her first child. It was raining when Katherine, after the ordeal of birth, first opened her eyes. She looked out of the window, and then she looked at the calendar. She began crying softly, and, like the rain outside, the tears ran down her cheeks as she clutched her baby to her. “Never mind, little Kay,” she said.

The day was Friday, the thirteenth.

Archives Main Page

I Found Kay Francis article


And where our writer found her, and how, and what she said, makes the most amusing story you’ve ever read about the star sophisticate.

By Margaret Angus.

Screenland, January, 1936.


THE first time I met Kay Francis in the flesh she was taking a bath, and was very much in the flesh. Quite pretty, too. It was last summer and the rumors were getting about that Warner Brothers’ most glamorous star was falling in love again, and with writer Delmer Daves, and naturally Mag the Snoop couldn’t let things like that go on. Remind me to do something about curbing my curiosity sometime, it gets me into the strangest places.

Of course I couldn’t exactly picture the exotic Kay romancing with a studio writer, a typewriter pounder, no less. Kay is easily one of the most sophisticated and charming women in Hollywood, and when you think of men in connection with her, you visualize monocles, top hats, moonlight on the Riviera and champagne cocktails—certainly no pencil stubs, second sheets, smudges, and ten o’clock of a hot morning in Burbank. Why, only a few weeks before Kay had returned from a series of social triumphs abroad that would make a queen green with envy, for she had all the eligible males in London, Paris, and the Countess di Frasso’s Rome at her feet, offering her every kind of little tid-bit from a medieval title to a Castle in Scotland with a ghost in the left wing. And of course it was no secret that ever since her return a certain Italian nobleman, introduced by the Countess di Frasso who is one of Kay’s best friends, had called frantically and eloquently over long distance from Rome every few nights. Yes, there must have been some mistake. As I recalled Delmar Daves he was anything but Old World. A rather studious looking young man, not handsome, but with a pleasing smile, who had been around Warner Brothers for a number of years scribbling out dialogue for the lads and lassies of the screen. How long he and Kay had known each other I do not know, but I do know that they did not start having “dates” until “Stranded,” which picture Kay starred in with George Brent, and which picture Daves wrote dialogue for. I am fairly reliably informed that they met on the “Stranded” set over a heated argument over Miss Francis’ lines.

Well, I pondered over the idiosyncrasies of the fate all the way out to the studio in Burbank and right into the publicity office. Would someone take me out to the Kay Francis set? Yes, the entire publicity department, down to the last man, would only be too happy to escort me to the Kay Francis set. Mercy, I was nearly bowled over by such attention, such eagerness, but I soon understood the reason for it all—alas, it was not my first lesson in charm taking effect, it was merely that Kay Francis was taking a bath on the set that morning, and breathes there a man with soul so dead, and so forth and so forth. The word certainly must have gotten around for when I arrived on the “Stranded” set with a body of publicity men interested in their art there were layers and layers of men; I do believe every prop boy had six assistants. Baths, I gather, are bright spots in a studio routine.

Did you ever wonder how movie stars take those baths that look so startling, so daring, on the screen? Now, I bet you did, Aunt Hattie. Well, I’ll tell you. When we arrived on the stage the property boy was making doubly sure that the supply of warm water in the tanks was sufficient to provide eight or nine “takes.” Kay Francis, all wrapped up in a yellow bath robe, her hair tucked securely in a white rubber cap, was pacing back and forth across the set, completely oblivious of the greatly augmented company which waited expectantly and silently, for her to take her bath.

The bath, it developed, was to be a shower. (Pshaw, said the publicity department. They like tubs better.) The shower stall was an enclosed rectangle the walls of which were opaque glass except for oval openings on each side five feet above the floor. It was through one of these “windows” that the bath was to be photographed. When all was ready Director Frank Borzage waved his hand, water spurted from the tank, and Kay loosened her robe and moved toward the glass door.

“Are you sure,” she demanded, “that there is plenty of warm water? I don’t want it to suddenly turn cold on me the way it did once before.”

The property boy assured her that everything was okay, so Kay swung the concealing glass door open until it stood between herself and everybody else, dropped her robe to the floor and stepped inside. A few seconds later her head and wet shoulders were framed in the oval window on which the cameras focused. Kay lathered her neck and shoulders in the most approved manner and started speaking her lines, (remember in “Stranded” where she talked to Patricia Ellis while taking a shower?), but she didn’t get far when she let out a terrible shriek. The director jumped, dozens of men got ready to spring to her assistance, and the mixer popped out of the monitor booth like a frightened rabbit. “Soap,” wailed Kay, “I’ve got soap in my eyes.” There was a great commotion while her maid, Ida, the wardrobe woman, the script girl and her hairdresser made a circle about Kay while she regained her composure and got the suds out of her eyes. Then, very unenthusiastically, resumed her bath, the men resumed their fascinated silence, the director resumed his chair, and the mixer resumed his duties of mixing shower noises and voices.

But it was not long before there was another shriek of anguish from the improvised shower room. It seemed that someone must have double-crossed Kay, for the water tank was running as cold as a mountain stream. I don’t blame Kay for being annoyed for there is nothing so disheartening as a cold shower when you are not expecting a cold shower. I decided that this was neither the time nor the place to interview Miss Francis about romance and Delmar Daves. A wet movie star can be just as cross as a wet hen. So I checked out.

Oh yes, I forgot to tell you, Aunt Hattie. Kay had on a bathing suit under the yellow robe. And now you know how movie stars bathe for the cinema.

Well, much water passed under the bridge, and out of Mr. Warner Brothers’ tank, before I had the occasion to interview Kay Francis again. Shortly after “Stranded” she packed up and went to Europe on an extended leave of absence, and there was much talk about her getting herself engaged to Maurice Chevalier who was in Paris at the time and to the Italian nobleman who had spent so much time on trans-Atlantic telephone calls. London, Paris, Rome and waltz-mad Vienne all got ready to do things up gay for the delightfully intoxicating Miss Francis, whom, the Europeans declared far more Continental than the Parisiennes themselves [webmaster’s note, “Parisiennes” is as it appears in the original text]. The princes started polishing up their titles and the dukes aired out their moldy castles and the Best Families invited Kay for a weekend at Tumbling Dawns or for a little cruise on the Mediterranean. Now Kay likes bridge and backgammon and tennis, and she likes to sun herself on the deck of a luxurious yacht; she likes long, leisurely European dinners and smart scintillating conversation; she likes gold braid and uniforms and the fuss they make over royalty in England; she likes dressing up like a million dollars going to the opera in Paris—in fact, Kay is quite a sophisticate at heart. But what she did do last summer in Europe? Why, she hardly got there before she turned around and came right back to Hollywood, with still several months to go on her vacation. Was Hollywood surprised! Ever since she has been in pictures Kay has spent her vacations in New York and Europe and has never shown her face in Hollywood until the cameras started turning on her net picture. Well, according to Kay, she didn’t have any fun in Europe this last time because she was sick, and she hurried home to Hollywood because she was sick. And Kay is probably telling the truth. But, old romanticist that I am, I prefer to believe that Delmar Daves had something to do with spending her real vacation in Hollywood and the mountains nearby.

He certainly met her at the train, as the photographers well noted (there’s some talk that he met her at the boat in New York), and every place Kay has made a public appearance since there has always been Delmar Daves. He was one of the exclusive few invited to her housewarming in October, and he was with her just the other night at the Hollywood preview of “I Found Stella Parish.” It is an old Hollywood custom that a star always takes the person she likes best to her previews, and the person whose opinion of her picture she values above all others. Well, draw your own conclusions, I’m drawing mine all right.

The second and last time I saw Kay was a couple of weeks ago, and it was at her home and I wasn’t invited to see her take a bath this time, but sat downstairs and waited and admired her living room—her entire house has just been done over by Tommy Douglas, who is not only a good actor but a good decorator. When she joined me she wore brown tailored pajamas and her hair had just been shampooed and set and was quite wet. Water, it seems, would always enter into my contacts with Miss Francis. And so for that matter would Delmar Daves. For just as you suspected, your Auntie Maggie was there to pry into Miss Francis’ romance. I didn’t do so well. Kay was gracious, indeed quite charming. But she didn’t give. May it be said to her glory that she did not hand me any hooey about “We are just good friends” or “I hardly know the person.” No, what she said was, “I never discuss my personal affairs,” and that, terse, dignified, and to the point. And after all, you do have to admire her for taking that stand. I never have respect for movie stars, male or female, who give out those interviews about “the women (or men) in my life.” Cheap, I calls it.

But Kay was perfectly willing to talk about anything else, and proceeded so to do. She flitted, with me puffing along behind, from recipes, to diets, to figures, to charm, to superstitions, to Europe, to Stella Parish, to men in general, to clothes, to operations, to old sherry—and there I stopped and had a glass and went home.

“I never diet,” Kay told me. “Maybe I will have to someday, but thank heavens I don’t have to now. I suppose the reason I don’t get fat is because I never over-eat, for I certainly eat anything and everything. In fact the things I like best would never be found on a reducing diet, but I go in for them just the same. I adore little thin hotcakes with maple syrup, and onion soup filled with cheese, hot fudge sundaes, and corn on the cob and popcorn and limburger cheese. Oh, and any kind of cheese, the smellier the better. No diet-harassed hostess ever has any trouble with me. I eat potatoes. I don’t drink coffee. Oh, I’m a cinch for any hostess. But perhaps she would not be so flattered if she could see me when I come home, for I usually raid the Frigidaire for bits of chicken and cheese and anchovy knickknacks.” (Oh, oh, she was driving me mad with envy—one good ice-box raid and I gain four pounds! Oh, the injustice of it all.)

But Kay prattled on, not knowing how near I was to slitting her throat. “My favorite dish is lamb chops. And I make a mushroom sauce for them that is divine. It’s all made of fresh mushrooms and cream and flour and Worcestershire sauce and Libeig’s seasoning and English mustard and salt and pepper and much tasting to see it’s all right. Umm, it’s good!” To save myself from the electric chair I decided to change the subject as quickly as possible.

archivesifoundkf2Kay thinks the “ten most attractive male players on the screen” are Lionel Barrymore, John Barrymore, Richard Barthlemess, Jimmy Cagney, Maurice Chevalier, Ronald Colman, Gary Cooper, Jackie Cooper, Clark Gable, and William Powell. She leans towards the “man of the world” type, except for Cagney and Jackie Cooper. She thinks Jackie because he makes her cry. “Jimmie Cagney,” she said, “is really not my ideal type, but on the screen he fascinates me. But the man who thrills me the most on the screen is Ronnie Colman. Even after I made a picture with him, and that’s the acid test you know, I still think that he is the most charming and exciting man in pictures.

“I can’t stand men who tap their fingers on a bridge table when I am playing a hand. And it certainly annoys me to have a man keep me waiting, for that is a woman’s privilege. I can’t bear to see a man primping or admiring himself in a mirror for that, too, is a woman’s privilege. I don’t like the Show-Off or the Athletic Type, the man who makes a great flourish of over-tipping and the man who bores you to death telling you about his golf score and the number of cold tubs he has had during the day. The kind of man I like—“ and there I regret to say Miss Francis must have decided the conversation was getting a little personal for she hastily skipped to superstitions.

She swears she isn’t the least bit superstitious but just the same 12 and 13 are her lucky numbers. She was born on Friday the thirteenth, and her most successful pictures have had twelve letters in their titles. She has a pair of pearl earrings she wears in several scenes in every picture, but of course she isn’t superstitious, no, of course not. The earrings are only imitation pearls and they were part of the “props” of her first picture, and when she left Paramount for Warner Brothers she asked permission of the studio to take them with her. “I have a feeling about those cheap earrings that might be called superstition—if I were superstitious,” she said. “I feel lost if I go on a set without them until I start work again.” When she isn’t working she doesn’t wear jewelry at all. She particularly dislikes diamonds.

The remarkable thing about Kay is that with all her glamour and prestige in Hollywood she has the most simple and unassuming menage. Kay may not have yachts and race horses and beautiful estates but she probably has more gilt edge bonds and good securities than any of her confreres. It’s most unusual to find so much good common sense in such a pretty head. Of course a great many of the Hollywood meanies who just must have their nasty cracks to enjoy life call Kay “stingy” and cerned, continues to live comfortably but not luxuriously, and continues to be one of the most sought after women in Hollywood.

Kay must have been born with a flair for the “social graces.” When she finished school she took a secretarial course, even mastered in short hand, but instead of going into a business office she secured positions as social security with Mrs. Dwight Morrow, Mrs. Minturn Pinchot, and Mrs. W. K. Vanderbilt. Those contacts helped her acquire a poise and dignity that is most helpful to an actress. Working with these society leaders she gained confidence and self-reliance, which qualities finally inspired the courage to resign her secretarial duties and fight for a career in the theatre. Sophisticate at quite an early age—how could she help it dashing madly back and forth to Europe with the Vanderbilts. But with all the excitement of knowing rich people and romping over Europe, and the ensuing excitement of the theatre and the screen, Kay has never once let any of it go to her head; she has always kep her mental feet right on the ground. So it is really little wonder after all that Hollywood’s world sophisticate comes home from her exciting travels and finds romance under her nose.

Archives Main Page

Love Secrets of Kay Francis

Read the Love Secrets of Kay Francis!

Kay talks frankly, for the first time, of her romance with Kenneth MacKenna.

By Grace Simpson


Originally published in Screenland in July, 1932.


A DREAMY moon and gorgeous roses. (Both beautifully artificial.) A shady nook, over-run with clinging vines. (Hastily put up.) Birds swaying overhead. (Stuffed and suspended by wires.) A flower-scented cottage. (Only two walls of it, for that’s all that shows.) And still, love flourishes. (Because the script demands it.)

But when the set is dismantled and carefully stores away in the prop room—what then? Does the love stirred up for cold celluloid continue on its merry way in real life? Well, it has been known to do so.

Take, for instance, the Kay Francis-Kenneth MacKenna romance. A torrid Hollywood studio set sponsored that, you know, and almost before a soul realized it, the happy pair and a minister plus a church had gotten together with the result that two were quickly made into one! The silken web of love ensnared this up-and-coming young couple completely, and now, after these many months of married life, they insist they are still very much “that way” about each other.

It was in New York, a number of years ago, that kay first met her present affinity. He was producing some plays and she was fast becoming popular with stage fans. It was but natural that they should eventually meet. From the very first they were strongly attracted to one another and a firm friendship developed. Love didn’t come just then—however, it was always hovering in the background.

Years sped by and Kay had arrived. Invited to play the siren role in “Gentlemen of the Press,” she played her own little way with astonishing effect. Hollywood producers were amazed at her new-type performance. “The girl’s great!” they chirped. “We need her in Hollywood!” So Glitter-town beckoned and Kay came and was immediately signed up at a nice fat salary with Paramount.

In due time, came “The Virtuous Sin” and Walter Huston and Kay were elected to head the cast. A colorful hero—to be Kay’s lover—had to be found and Paramount officials cast their eyes upon Kenneth MacKenna, now a Fox film actor (and doing quite nicely, thank you!). A deal was put through whereby he was loaned for that one production. During its making, Kay and Kenneth discovered all over again what really charming people they both were and each became decidedly smitten with the other. The ensuing affair was one of the whirlwind variety and soon—very soon—all the newspapers burst forth with the announcement that “Kay Francis Becomes Bride of Kenneth MacKenna, and the happy couple will depart on a yachting trip as soon as they can obtain a leave of absence from the studios.”

Immediately, blasé Hollywood sat up and took notice. These two young folks had put something over on her—for hardly a person in the colony had the least idea that they were going to get married—in fact, very few even knew they were in love.

“How did you win your man? What was your technique?” we asked Kay, one day recently.

“Oh, I don’t know—I acted at first mostly indifferent, I guess. Of course, I knew that Kenneth liked me. Every day he would leave messages or call me up on the phone and all kinds of flowers would find their way to my house. Yes, it was obvious that he liked me!

“And I liked him, too—right from the beginning. But I didn’t want to parade my real feelings, so I pretended I was indifferent to him. You know, mystery and indifference was the basis of Cleopatra’s allure,” she went on, laughing in that deep, throaty manner that is so captivating. “She never let men fully understand her. She always made herself appear rather unattainable, at the same time giving men the basis for a faint hope that she might be won. Even when she welcomed a man’s advances, she never let him absolutely sure of her, but instead, kept him worrying a bit. Her method was to give him just a little suffering and then a little joy!”

“And so,” we ejaculated [Webmaster’s note: that is not a typo!], “you thought you’d be Cleo the second!”

“Exactly,” Kay smiled, good-naturedly, “but my little ruse wasn’t altogether successful—I couldn’t keep it up, and Kenneth, I think, realized before very long that I was very, very fond of him!”

Just before their marriage, Kay and Kenneth went house-hunting and discovered a quaint, gabled English house, very spacious and surrounded by shady trees and shrubs. Here, today, they live happily amid early Colonial furnishings and many rare costly antiques. “Ken is particularly fond of them, commented Kay, “due largely, perhaps, to the fact that many of his ancestors were New Englanders.”

Each has his own separate apartment.

“I believe in that idea most thoroughly,” admitted Kay. “And especially when the husband and wife are practically of the same profession. A wife, in my humble opinion, should always strive to remain just a trifle aloof and retain her own individuality. Too many marriages that I could name have floundered hopelessly—largely because of too much intimacy. No man or woman likes to be bored or tired out and if they are always together and never out of the other’s sight—well, you never can tell what might happen! I earnestly hope no man will ever say I tire or bore him!

“On the other hand, I believe absolutely in the ‘give and take’ angle of marriage. Every wife, I think, should give her husband her whole-hearted love and companionship. She should try to be a real pal to him—do things he wants to do and go places he wants to go. She should see that he has all the wants to eat and what he wants to eat. After all, that old saying that ‘the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach’ has many good points to it! She should see that the home is always in order and comfortable or him. All these little things really count in the long run of making of a truly successful marriage.

One reason that our own marriage has been happy and successful so far is that my husband and I are firm friends and our respect for each other is mutual. Our love is founded on a firm basis and not on mere infatuation. I won’t say that we will never be divorced or will keep on being happy forever for I find that folks who insist on those points are the very ones who in the end surprise all their friends by actually having wrecked marriages! But I will say this—I don’t honestly see at the present time how anything big enough could ever come between Kenneth and me to separate us!”

Furthermore, Kay believes fewer divorces would result if long engagements or, at least, long friendships were the practice. She substantiates this belief with fact—her own and Kenneth MacKenna’s lives being the examples. Previous to their marriage, these two were friends for many years and were engaged secretly for several months before taking the final leap.

“Naturally, all marriages do not succeed regardless of the preparation and thought given them,” admitted Kay. “It isn’t easy being married in Hollywood in any case. But, at least, one that is the result of a long friendship or engagement has the better chance. Ken and I got our lives straightened out during the months we went together before our marriage. It wasn’t easy at times. We both found that we had to make sacrifices and adjustments. During the early days of our marriage other adjustments were necessary. Some of them weren’t easy, but they were very much worthwhile for they brought a complete understanding between us. You know yourself that when two people are working constantly, unless they watch most carefully they are bound to become too independent and probably peevish and fretful as well, and those are stepping stones toward unhappiness in matrimony.”

Kay’s pet aversion is rumors (a polite word for gossip), and she has made up her mind never to take any chances with the Hollywood variety. Accordingly, whenever her husband takes a vacation from his work, she takes one, too, if possible. If he goes to New Yok, along trots his Kay. If he journeys to Agua Caliente, along she goes. If he sets forth on a cruise up and down the Pacific, along does the missus, too.

“I don’t want any of those ugly or divorce rumors started about us,” she says. “I’d much rather lose out on a picture than to be separated from Kenneth for any great length of time.”

They recently had their first real vacation together—Kay’s first in a year and a half—and they spent time cruising around the coast in Kenneth’s boat. The other day she finished her role in “Street of Women” and the next morning reported to work on the set of “Jewel Robbery,” with William Powell. She left Paramount and went to Warner’s the first of January and already has completed two pictures. “The Jewel Robbery” is her third and “S.S. Atlantic,” her fourth, will be completed before June 1st, which is something of a record for speed. However, Kay is not fretting about the rapid succession of her pictures. Her contract calls for five pictures to be made in two years. With four completed by June, she and Kenneth hope to be able to take a year off for a visit in Europe before the studios want them again. Not a bad idea at that!

Both these young people take a keen interest in each other’s work.

“I was never quite so happy as when Ken was made a full-fledged director and signed a contract calling for a beautiful salary,” beamed Kay. “I was, in fact, so tickled that I left my work and right down to his studio and onto the set and spent the rest of the day there with him!

“Both of us are hopeless movie fans, too,” she went on, “and when our work permits, we go to see three or four pictures a week. Our favorites are Garbo, Negri, Ronald Colman, and Lionel Barrymore. Personally, I have always adored movie stars. Before there was even a possibility of my becoming a screen actress, I’d build up all sorts of glamorous illusions concerning them, and the fact that I am now one of the crowd myself hasn’t seemed to change those illusions a bit.

“For instance, Pola Negri used to hold me enthralled and I’d often say to myself: ‘Oh, she must be the most gorgeous and magnificent person in the world!’ When I came out here and met her I was so awed for a moment that I couldn’t think of a thing to say! You see, I couldn’t overcome my early illusions of her. Garbo affects me that way, too. So often you hear people say that it must be terribly disillusioning to work on the sets. Strangely enough, although I work continually in that atmosphere, my reactions to the final production are in no way affected by my knowledge of how it’s made.

“Why, when I saw James Dunn enacting that scene in the doctor’s office in ‘Bad Girl,’ I actually found myself beginning to shed tears! And at the same time, I knew that Frank Borzage probably spent all morning or possibly all weekend coaxing up that particular scene! But that knowledge couldn’t reduce my emotion at all. It was such a fine performance that I believed it was actually taking place!”

Archives Main Page

Kay and Bill Talk About Each Other


Screenland, August 1934.

Kay and Bill tell you what they think of each other as acting partners as well as personalities behind the make-believe of their roles as screen lovers.

By Maude Cheatham.



archivekayandbillDECORATING Kay Francis’ dressing room is a treasured collection of photographs of the handsome heroes with whom she has played during her film career. Ronald Colman, Ricardo Cortez, Richard Barthelmess, and many others—for Kay’s screen life is spent collecting masculine hearts.

[Webmaster’s note: Kay and Richard Barthelmess never appeared together onscreen.]

In the most prominent spot of all is a large picture bearing the inscription, “From your perennial lover, Bill Powell.”

Kay explained, in that deep, husky voice so familiar to us on the screen: “Yes, we’ve been lovers in six pictures—but out romances never include the happy-ever-after sequence. Bill always leaves me in the final fade out!”

She checked them off. “In our first film together, ‘Behind the Make-Up’, he committed suicide. In ‘Street of Chance’, the only one in which we were ever really married, he was shot. This was my first leading part and I was terribly upset for fear my work wouldn’t be good enough for a Powell picture. But he was so fine through it all, helping and encouraging me, and by the time it was finished I had gained new confidence.

“In ‘For the Defense’, poor Bill was sent to jail. And on ‘One Way Passage’, we both died! In ‘Jewell Robbery’, he went away and I followed him, according to the scenario.” She added with a laugh, “I hope I caught him!”

“If I had been in ‘The Key’, Bill’s last picture under his Warner contract, as it was first planned, it would have been the old story again—he would have left me!

“Oh, yes, and in ‘Ladies’ Man’, he was killed, thrown off a high balcony—just after we had straightened out our romance, too!

“I remember when we started ‘Ladies’ Man’ we were neither one so enthusiastic over the story, and we’ve often laughed at B.P. Schulberg’s clever strategy in arousing our interest. He patted us on the back and Bill that no other actor was as capable as endowing the difficult character with the necessary qualities. Then he explained that there were three reasons why he put me in the picture. First, the movie audiences wanted to see us together again. Of course, this was his trump card and it pleased us immensely. Then he said my part was a sappy one and he was sure I would make it less sappy. The third reason was that Bill died in the end and left me and that was what the fans expected from us!”

With William Powell and Kay Francis, the screen’s fashion-plates and super-sophisticates, playing in six pictures together without a single flare-up nor a tiny scrap or even a hasty word, not one, who dares to say film stars are so temperamental?

“Congenial? Oh, very,” Kay brushed aside my question. “Making a picture with Bill is always a grand adventure. He’s generous to work with, has an unfailing sense of humor, is witty, and has a fine code of honor, and is so essentially a gentleman under all conditions.

“I shall never forget when we started ‘Jewell Robbery’. I was worn out having made four pictures in a row, finishing the last one at seven o’clock one night and starting ‘Jewel Robbery’ early the next morning. We were on location and it was frightfully hot and I became cross, very irritable. Finally I blew up in my lines and went all to pieces. Bill sauntered over and sat down beside me saying, quietly, ‘Kay, if I didn’t love you and understand how utterly exhausted you were, I’d, well, I’d spank you!’

“That made me laugh. We both howled at the imaginary picture his words suggested and this broke the tension I had been on. Everything was serene after that.

“We always laugh and joke when we are together; our humor seems pitched in the same key; but we are very serious when making a picture, for we feel it requires all our concentration. Bill has taught me to keep from getting a one-track mind regarding my role. In studying his characters he likes to twist the story around, figuring out different angles in the psychology of the persons involved, and you would be amazed how this broadens one’s understanding of the drama as a whole and of your own role in particular.”
After a moment’s thought, Kay said she considered Bill’s outstanding quality was his deep understanding, his ability always to see the other person’s side of the question. The only fault she could think of was his inability to be on time.

“He even kids himself by keeping his watch set exactly thirty-one minutes fast,” she merrily explained, “but even that doesn’t help much. He’s quite hopeless in this.”

Kay’s own life sparkles with varied experiences that give her, also, a vast understanding of love and people. Perhaps this is the key to their mutual congeniality.

Educated through European travel and exclusive schools, Kay took an early fling at business. She sold real estate, was a social secretary, and promoted Raquel Meller when she blazed through America several years ago. She’s been married three times, beginning at seventeen, and only recently divorced Kenneth MacKenna, and each married carried her into an entirely different environment. Besides, she’s won stage success and fame as a foremost motion picture star.

You would doubtless be surprised to see Kay Francis off the screen. She looks so much smaller and far more girlish than she does in her pictures. The day of our talk she was wearing a smart brown ensemble but she confesses she cares little for clothes—except in her pictures.

Some distant day kay wants to return to the stage and with new laurels. Well, some day, perhaps. But we film fans wouldn’t like to spare her or the combination of Powell and Francis, from our screens. They supply an ideal team of ultra-sophisticates.

Remembering Bill’s great charm and feeling the glow of Kay’s radiant personality, a thought flashed through my mind. A gorgeous thought. I hardly dare breathe it for I’m sure they will both take a shot at me when they read this. But—wouldn’t it be great, now that they are both matrimonially free, if this popular reel-love team of William Powell and Kay Francis should be duplicated in a real-life romance, with all the “happy-ever-after” sequences left into the drama?


archivekayandbill1WHEN I mentioned his many pictures with Kay Francis, I met an enthusiastic response from William Powell.

“Playing opposite Kay has been one of my happiest experiences since coming to the screen,” he said warmly. “She is not only a fine actress but a grand girl.

We’ve worked and played together so long that I couldn’t settle on any quality I admire most. We’ve made pictures at both Paramount and Warners studios, where we were both under contract. Also, we have gone around with the same little social group. She knew Carole very well (meaning Carole Lombard, the ex-Mrs. Powell)—and I knew Kenneth MacKenna (meaning Kay’s recently divorced husband).

“Kay is deliciously feminine, with a thoroughly unconscious lure that captivates everyone. She’s a very real person, vital, alive. She’s well-read and is a stimulating conversationalist. Kay also is blessed with a gorgeous humor, and with an uncanny understanding of a man’s mental process she always gets his viewpoint. She’s sincere, a square-shooter, a real comrade.

“An amusing thing about is when we are together is we become interested or excited we both drop into a fluttery stammer. She does ah-ah-ah, while I stutter fu-fu-fu. By the time we come to where we’re speechless with laughter. So is everyone who hears us.”

We were chatting over luncheon at Bill’s home in Beverly Hills. There was a serene and comfortable atmosphere pervading the beautiful rooms. With efficient servants the “feminine touch” seems no longer necessary in maintaining the perfect home.

It was a little disconcerting, I admitted to myself, as I watched the butler’s quiet serving of a menu no woman’s planning could excel. The French windows opened onto the patio and a garden, gay in a riot of flowers. Beyond, I could see a swimming pool with its shimmering reflection of the cypress hedge, fragrant in the noon-day sun.

It was peaceful and very pleasant. There were no outward evidences of heartbreak or disillusionment anywhere around, yet this was the very first house where Bill and Carole spent their brief life together. I wondered just how deep the crashing of his romance went in his heart. He appeared to be the same suave and poised Mr. Powell.

I spoke of this, “the suave and poised. I was biding my time to speak of Carole.

“Ah, be sure and call me suave and polished! Add sophisticated, too! Every story about me dwells and dwells on these adjectives,” and he flashed a little boy grin, not in the least sophisticated.

“If you but knew what it cost me to attain these qualities!” He teased. “Believe me, they were laboriously cultivated through years of effort. As a boy in school just beginning to dream of a stage career I was handicapped by an inferiority complex. Tragic as this was, it urged me on to self-expression. I yearned to have poise, to be suave above all else in the world, and in my determination to become an actor I forced myself to assume the mannerisms and characteristics of other people. I play-acted to myself, continually.

“Ten years on the stage helped. Then came pictures, and how I’ve enjoyed them. In my first film, ‘The Bright Shawl,’ I met Richard Barthelmess, and we have been great friends ever since. In my second, ‘Ramona’, I met Ronald Colman, who proved another true pal.”

I asked him how he kept fit—aside from a careful diet, for watching him at luncheon I’m sure he counts his calories. His reply is characteristic.

“It’s easier to keep from annexing the fatal ‘bay window,’ and jowls, than to lose them. So every day I look intently to the swimming pool. I think a lot about tennis, and talk a dandy game of golf. But, really, I keep fit by worrying. Sophisticated—poised—suave! Good Lord! Why, any little thing can upset me. I’m a very fine worrier and it makes me lose weight. I’m fittest when I’m lean. So there you are!”

Walking out into the garden I thought again of Carole. Everyone knows that Bill was madly in love with her. Yet in two years the marriage ended. Their divorce was one of those friendly affairs and they continue to go about together, being very comradey.

When I finally spoke of Carole, his reply was casual. He lives in an atmosphere of social poise, of cultivated sophistication where real feelings are kept out of sight.

“We all generalize, talk platitudes,” he said. “None of us speaks freely of vital things. Our ‘big moments’ are lived within ourselves and—alone. We don’t trot them out on parade. It just isn’t done.

“Life is built of experiences and no one ever really learns. A child burns his fingers in the fire and vows he’ll never do it again. But he does. He goes right on burning his fingers all through life.

“I don’t know what my future holds. I’m not making any wild assertions. I may marry again. I may not. You know, just having married and divorced doesn’t change me as a man. Perhaps I’m still susceptible to feminine charm!

“We all need women in our lives. They are the incentive for every man’s ambitions and achievements. When we are around twenty-five we can tell you all about the fair sex. But the older we become the less we know about them. All women are charming, lovely!”

Right now Bill Powell is more interest in his screen work than ever before, having recently set out on a free-lance adventure after being under studio contract for years. He feels this course will bring him more suitable roles. Already he has made “Manhattan Melodrama,” with Clark Gable and Myrna Loy, and “The Thin Man,” from Dashiell Hamett’s story. He has enough excellent parts lined up to keep him busy for more than a year. At that time, he rather wistfully suggested, he would like a real vacation in Southern France.

While our chat had been more or less serious, Powell has an engaging humor that seldom finds place on the screen. This is a loss. Perhaps in some of his new films he will be given a chance to lighten his sophisticated characterizations with his gift of wit that is so adroit and so effervescent. I think that facet of Powell’s character would appeal to the public.

Bill’s final works, as he stepped into his car to dash over to the studio, were, “I sincerely hope I shall make many more pictures with Kay Francis. It is such fun to work with her and also, a great satisfaction. You see, we speak the same language.”

Archives Main Page

Is Stardom Worth It?


Modern Screen, February 1939


Kay Francis, who’s been cinematically around a long time, gives the answer.

By Malcolm Oettinger

OF ALL the incandescent ladies currently twinkling in Hollywood, perhaps none is better qualified to assay the values of stardom than Kay Francis. For a decade or more she has been importantly photographed in minor and major masterpieces stemming from the cameras of Paramount and Warner Brothers. She has given her talents to miniature classics and prestigious disappointments. She has weathered silent, talkies, and the switch from sophisticated comedy to costume drama and back. She has had hits, floperoos, triumphs and disasters, yet today she remains firmly entrenched.

In addition to this, Miss Francis has been around. She knows both Paris and London as well as she knows Hollywood and New York. She is possessed of darkling beauty and is, in a word, worldly as few movie stars are. She does not hesitate to express her opinions, and she knows a number of good words that enable her to express them well. She is decorative but, more importantly, she is adult in her thinking process.

When cornered, Miss Francis had just arrived in New York and rather begrudged any time from the theatre, which she was attending matinee and night. However, she agreed to weigh the advantages of stardom against the disadvantages and you, as the judge, may decide whether stardom is worthwhile or not.

“Stardom looks alluring when you haven’t achieved it,” said Kay. “You know the old maxim, distance lends enchantment. It’s very true. Not, mind you, that stardom hasn’t its virtues.

“First of all, the financial remuneration. Delightful! Money is handy stuff. I don’t think I’m mercenary, but when all those horrid bills start piling up the first of the month it’s reassuring to know you can write checks with a free hand.

“Then there’s the idea of being somebody. Seeing one’s name in lights is a thrill, and don’t let anyone tell you it isn’t. I’ve yet to glimpse Kay Francis on a marquee without glowing a little inside. Call it vanity, call it pride. Whatever you want to name it, there’s a tremendous ego satisfaction in being a star on the lot, instead of one of hundreds of more or less nameless stock players.

“That brings us to the third good reason for enjoying top billing. There are attentions thrown to the star that are reserved for her only. Portable dressing room, special camera care, special lighting, and retakes when desired. Sometimes you’ve done a scene that you feel could be better even though the director has let it run. As a star, you’re entitled to a retake. If you were a character woman or second lead, you could whistle for it and like it.”

Just as Kay was leading one to believe that she is the original glad girl who likes everything, she tacked over to a complaint against being a star.

“One of the unpleasant angles,” she said, “is being handed a poor story with the ideal that your name and popularity will carry it. That’s a very foolish notion. No star is better than her script. Someone once said that no star could survive three flops. I would like to add that no star can rationalize a badly prepared story. I know; I’ve tried! The public holds a bad picture against a star longer than a good picture is remembered.”

Invitations from total strangers is another thing Miss Francis can find nothing to cheer about.

“Hollywood stars are asked to parties in New York by people they’ve never met—publicity minded society folks, as a rule. The celebrity hunters are willing to hunt small game, shall we say modesty, or practice on us to keep in form. They ask you to teas and dinners in which you are totally disinterested.”

Back home in Beverly Hills, it’s almost as bad, Kay added. She is invited to press buttons opening expositions, act as hostess at the premiere of a new meat market, award the prizes at a dance class commencement, serve in a dozen and one capacities in no way associated with acting.

“Of course, I don’t accept these wild invitations,” she amplified, “but one is bound to give them decent consideration. You owe that courtesy to everyone. You must be tactful and diplomatic in turning down an invitation because to the person issuing them they’re not as silly as they may seem to you.”

Miss Francis added that she sees every letter addressed to her, although her secretary sorts the mail and classifies it according to its importance.

“My fan mail delights me,” said Kay. “It comes from such unexpected places—Tasmania, Delhi, Russia! It thrills me to have people bother to write just to say they enjoyed a picture I was in.”

Another black mark against stardom, according to Miss Francis, is the ungodly hours demanded of a star. Extra scenes on Sunday, retakes until two in the morning, trailers on holidays—all for art’s sake. Between pictures it’s difficult to plan a vacation for fear loose ends of the last one have to be gathered up or a new ending tackled on. A star’s time is subject at all times to the call of the studio.

Kay saved her pet grievance against stardom for her final shot. “I abhor being a goldfish in a bowl, open to public inspection all hours of the day,” she flashed. “I resent being asked whom I’m going to the theatre with, where I was for the weekend, and what my intentions are towards matrimony. All these things are nobody’s business. Being a star shouldn’t make one fair game for snooper’s sniping.

“Wearing smoked glasses doesn’t hide you. You can’t get away from it all when your face has appeared on so many screens everywhere so many times. A star is marked as long as she is a star. Of course, they let you alone when you’re through.” She laughed a bit ruefully. “When I fade I suppose I’ll miss the pushing around. We can’t be satisfied. But I would say definitely that the one thing about being a star that’s hardest to take is the total lack of privacy!”

Thus Kay Francis upholds and attacks the joys and terrors of stardom, laying bare its rewards as well as deploring its sorrows. Is it worthwhile? Miss Francis seem to feel, womanlike, that the answer is yes and no. What do you think?

Archives Main Page

Just Life and Love


Kay Francis says it’s easy to hold a man if done the right way

By Virginia Maxwell


Originally appeared in the June 1933 issue of Photoplay.

“Marriage is a give and take affair, a big job in itself. And there are definite rules for success in this important business as there are in other games,” Kay Francis said to me.

“I really think that women today have forgotten their femininity. And I don’t mean that they can’t wear tweed suits or work as hard as their brothers, either. I mean those moments at home when wives forget to be glamorous to their men.

“Every women has her little mysteries, even if it’s only a trick of clothes or makeup. And do you think men don’t notice when a woman’s nose isn’t powdered? Or when the straps of her undies are slipping off her shoulders or when she is not dainty in her clothes?”

Husband Kenneth MacKenna was due any moment. And Kay was certainly an attractive wife for him to come home to. She had been too busy to have a shampoo and set that week. But her hair proved the point of what she had been saying. She had merely run her comb through her permanent, fluffed it up a little at the back, then patted it down over the ears. A little fragrant hair tonic had made it lovely.

“Modern wives,” someone demurred, “are usually too busy to bother much with their looks.”

“Keeping attractive is really such an important part of a wife’s job,” Kay shot back, “that she should make time. Girls going to business every day—I see them early mornings when I’m on my way to the studio—are the essence of loveliness. They have perhaps less time than the wives who stay at home. Yet they know that looking attractive is part of their office jobs and they don’t neglect this point.”

“But suppose one isn’t born good-looking or charming or anything,” one of the unmarried girl friends lamented, “what then? Don’t men always fall for a pretty face and figure regardless of anything else?”

“Of course, beauty always attracts a man,” Kay said, “but it’s charm that holds him. You know, I believe that a man who passes up a charming girl just because she isn’t pretty is cheating himself, not the girl. The man who can see through a plain looking girl, right through her features to the think behind her eyes which is her inner charm, is the man who would make a better husband. It’s a sort of barometer for measuring a man’s emotional depth, too, don’t you see?”

“Honestly, now,” someone asked, “do you think a modern 1933 wife would have taken on so seriously about her husband’s affair as you did over Ronnie Colman’s philandering in ‘Cynara’?”

Kay’s green eyes opened wide.

“Not sophisticated wives, she said. “But they are in the minority. There are thousands of women all over this country who could never have brought themselves to live with again after they’d found out infidelity. As in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, where I once lived. Women in that down, and it’s typical of other towns, would have felt the blow to their pride too severely to make up after a public scandal such as followed the husband’s affair in ‘Cynara.’

“I think that’s true of so many divorces. It’s pride that goads woman on to an unforgiving attitude. They simply can’t believe it and they can’t walk out of the house and know the neighbors are whispering.”

WE thought of the tragedies for which neighbors are sometimes responsible; women who, quite content to overlook their own husband’s faults, goad other women to the divorce court.

And, usually, great mountains are built of molehill troubles. Like the young married woman who thought she was being terribly snubbed because her husband buried himself in the newspaper at breakfast. Or the wife whose day was made miserable because friend husband, rushing off to make the 8:10 train for the office, forgot to kiss her goodbye.

“It’s never really the big things which wreck the marriage,” asserted Kay. “It’s the little things—petty arguments, personal habits, perhaps.

“Women have gone through tragic financial disasters with husbands today and they are happily rebuilding their lives. Even the mercenary wife has withstood this sort of blow. But let the same husband hurt her pride of get on her nerves, and more domestic damage can be done than a dozen bank failures can cause.”

“Then you think a woman can plan her life for happiness?” one woman asked Kay. “That no matter what big, shocking blow comes to her marriage, she can still go on?”

“I see it this way,” Kay answered, “Unless a marriage is just all wrong from the beginning; unless two people are hopelessly mismated, I do think a woman can plan her happiness. True, she may lose the love of her husband, but she can make up for some of that in other interests such as children, or work, or her home, or something she can be terribly interested in. It isn’t necessary to dash into the divorce court and come out with a decree which eventually may tear her life to pieces.

“And don’t think I believe marriage is a one-sided game,” Kay added.

“There are little curiosities which a man contributes to keep the glamour in a marriage. The man who forgets to arise when his wife meets him, or to draw out her chair at the table or to hold her wrap…that man is forgetting his glamour. For, you see, as I said before, it’s the little things which put beauty into marriage.

“Of course, I don’t mean that men ought to go around drawing out chairs for their wives and expecting to build marital happiness on anything so slender. What I mean is that, granted two people are well mated, the loveliness of that marriage relationship need never become tarnished if each one remembers that the beauty of love is an illusion. Each must work to preserve that intangible thing, and it is the little curiosities, the little exchanges which grow into every marriage. They vary with the individual, of course.

“Only when this fragile sense of reciprocation has fled it seems do we realize what had been given to us—to preserve or to destroy. Illusion is enjoyed by the man as by the women. Both must strive to keep a little glamour and they will run less risk of becoming uninteresting to each other as years go on.”

Archives Main Page