Irving Bacon ♦ Lloyd Bacon ♦ George Bancroft ♦ Tallulah Bankhead ♦ Travis Banton ♦ Erik Barnekow ♦ Richard Barr ♦ Phillis Barry ♦ Diana Barrymore ♦ Lionel Barrymore ♦ Richard Barthelmess ♦ Charles Baskerville ♦ Anne Baxter ♦ Beat the Clock ♦ Louise Beavers ♦ Behind the Make-Up ♦ Monta Bell ♦ Ralph Bellamy ♦ Constance Bennett ♦ Jack Benny ♦ Busby Berkeley ♦ Jeffery Bernerd ♦ Betty Crocker Show ♦ Between Us Girls ♦ Charles Bickford ♦ Bitterness ♦ Black Chiffon ♦ Joan Blondell ♦ Humphrey Bogart ♦ Veda Ann Borg ♦ Clara Bow ♦ Charles Boyer ♦ George Brent ♦ Mary Brian ♦ British Agent ♦ Louis Bromfield ♦ Clive Brook ♦ Nigel Bruce ♦ Jane Bryan ♦ Carol Burnett
Bacon, Lloyd. Director of 1933’s Mary Stevens, M.D., which starred Kay in the title role.
Bankhead, Tallulah. Notorious actress of stage and screen who was originally considered for the role of “Julia Ashton” in Another Dawn, which eventually went to Kay.
The two supposedly enjoyed a “fling” during Kay’s contract years at Paramount (PL) and socialized frequently with other very sexually-charged Hollywood superstars. On January 23, 1932, at a party hosted by Kay’s former lover Eddie Goulding, Kay wrote in her diary, “Swell time, but got very drunk. T.B. called me a lesbian. E.H. and I were very close to getting queer! Damn fool!”
As Lynn Kear and John Rossman pointed out, “T.B.” was probably Bankhead, while “E.H.” was most likely Edith Head, who was working under costume designer Travis Banton at the time.
Banton, Travis. Costume designer at Paramount when Kay arrived to Hollywood in 1929. She worked with Banton primarily during her contract years at the studio (’29-’32). Considering the most famous female star at Paramount were short with inconsistent weight (Clara Bow and Nancy Carroll), Banton liked that Kay was tall and her figure remaining fairly consistently shaped.
Banton said of Kay, “Miss Francis is the epitome of feminine allure, and her dark beauty calls for fashions that are extreme and chicly daring” (PL). Banton was brought out to Hollywood by Paramount, but lost his position there in the late 1930s due to his heavy drinking.
Edith Head took over his position.
Barnekow, Erik. (March 10, 1897—October 25, 1942). In the fall of 1937, Kay was introduced to Barnekow at a party at Countess di Frasso’s. Tall with light hair and clear eyes, the relationship started with frequent lovemaking, and Kay noted of his ideal abilities in her diary. As 1938 went on, Kay’s career began to nosedive, she brushed off care about it in the press because she insisted she was going to marry Barnekow. Privately, the relationship was troubled from the beginning. Kay had loaned him money on several occasions, and their fights were extremely volatile.
Rumors began to spread almost immediately that he was a Nazi spy. In the beginning of their relationship, his name was unknown to the press. He was merely referred to as the “boyfriend of Miss Francis.” The FBI went to considerable trouble to track down his true identity to keep tabs on him (PL).
Barnekow claimed that he was the heir to a castle and country estates in Pomerania. He had a son, Erik, in 1926 with his first wife, Ingeborg Wendroth. The couple divorced before Erik was one, and he never met his father. Brita, Barnekow’s sister, filled young Erik in on the gaps about his father.
Barnekow disappeared to Europe right after the beginning of World War II. Kay never saw nor heard from him again. When he committed suicide on October 25, 1942, she never learned of it. She died never knowing what became of him.
Barrymore, Diana. 1942’s Between Us Girls was a big Universal publicity campaign to make a huge star out of Barrymore, who was a brat during filming (CR). As a result, her career didn’t pick up.
During filming of Between us, her father, legendary John Barrymore, died.
Barrymore, Lionel. Co-directed and starred in 1931’s Guilty Hands, a murder mystery which was one of Kay’s better films from her early years.
Barrymore enjoyed a long career, winning an Oscar the same year as Guilty Hands for his performance as Norma Shearer’s alcoholic father in A Free Soul.
Barthelmess, Richard. Was one of the few notable actors at First National Studios when Warner Bros. took over the lot in a financial merger in 1930. Barthelmess and his wife, Jessica, were very good friends of Kay’s throughout her entire Hollywood career, frequently spending New Years with the couple.
Baskerville, Charles. Editor for The New Yorker, remembered fondly of Kay’s entrance into the New York City circle in 1922. The two remained good friends, and sometimes lovers. Of Kay, Baskerville said, “She was an extraordinary person. That summer she had no wardrobe but took a paisley—gray, black and white—Persian shawl and had it made into an evening wrap. Whenever we were going to any swell place, she would put the paisley wrap over her gown, and she was a knockout. She carried herself beautifully; her hair was cut as short as mine, and she wore no jewelry, only lipstick. No eye shadow or anything; she didn’t need it. People were stampeded by this creature. They thought she was a maharani on the loose.”
Baxter, Anne. Early in her career Baxter had a small role in Charley’s Aunt.
Beat the Clock. Game show on which Kay appeared. (See Television page.)
Behind the Make-up. Paramount, 1930. Directed by Robert Milton & Dorothy Arzner. Based on Mildred Cram’s “The Feeder.” Starring Hal Skelly, the film was the first teaming of William Powell and Kay Francis. Though Kay only has a minor role (about 7 minutes on film, not even appearing until almost 37 minutes into the 65 minute movie), her role is an important one since she drives Powell to suicide. The film is a better showcase for Fay Wray, though her part is a bit unappealing.
The film is notable largely for its use of shadows and darkness to enhance the dreariness of the entire story.
Powell biographer Roger Bryant wrote of the film, “[Powell’s] first release of 1930 was a now-forgotten film that deserves rediscovery…Many of the early sequences are brilliantly photographed by Charles Lang in near darkness. Lang paints a chiaroscuro of grays and blacks, drawing heavily on the European influences that had been so recently prominent in Hollywood and at Paramount in Particular.”
Bell, Monta. Film producer most famous for his silent works and association with Norma Shearer at Metro Goldwyn Mayer. Was the producer for 1929’s Gentlemen of the Press, which was Kay’s first appearance on film.
Bellamy, Ralph. Appeared with Kay in State of the Union. See the Stage Page for further info.
Bennett, Constance. Pal of Kay’s in the late 1920’s and early 30’s. The two were hyped up as fashion rivals according to Paramount publicity (PL). When Kay announced her own “best dressed” list in the Los Angeles Evening Herald Express in April 1936, she listed Bennett as one of them. The others included Claudette Colbert, Marlene Dietrich, Carole Lombard, and Myrna Loy.
To avoid problems with her friends, Kay asked to have them listed in alphabetical order.
Benny, Jack. Extremely popular comedian in the early 1940s. Kay appeared opposite Benny in Charley’s Aunt (1941), and also on his popular radio show to help promote the film.
Berkeley, Busby. Legendary director of the enormously popular musicals from Warner Bros. in the early 1930s. Famous for his geometric camera tricks with dancers, Berkeley directed 42nd Street (1932), which was initially supposed to star Kay in the role which eventually went to Ruby Keeler. Kay lost the part due to contract negotiations with Warner Bros.
Kay co-produced all three of her Monogram films with Bernerd, which some have claimed was the idea which initially brought Kay to the poverty-row studio. In a letter dated July 25, 1944 Kay wrote, “I’ve decided to produce pictures” (PL).
Betty Crocker Show. Kay appeared on a 1953 episode of this TV series. See the Television Page for more info.
Between Us Girls. Universal, 1942. Produced & directed by Henry Koster. Based on Le Fruit Vert (The Green Fruit in English) by Regis Gignous & Jacques Thery. The property was designed to make a big star out of Diana Barrymore. Unfortunately, Barrymore’s personal problems interfered with the film’s production and, eventually, her chances at ever achieving stardom (PL).
John Boles and Kay were billed below the lesser-known Barrymore and Robert Cummings in the advertising materials and actual film.
Between Us Girls has the distinction of being Kay’s last legitimate film before her final three movies at Monogram. Her next feature after Between Us, was the wartime canteen musical Four Jills in a Jeep (1944), which had Kay appearing as herself.
Bickford, Charles. Kay’s costar in 1930’s Passion Flower. Aggravated because producer Irving Thalberg refused to loan Bickford to RKO for Cimarron (the part went to Richard Dix, who received an Academy Award nomination for his performance in the Best Picture winner), he later said of the film, “Of all the bad pictures I have made, and there were many, Passion Flower takes the cake. As I had warned Thalberg, it had exactly nothing to commend it and turned out to be the big daddy of all stinkeroos. It was but one of the Thalberg productions you never heard about” (CR).
Bitterness (of Kay’s). The 1976 George Eells book, Ginger, Loretta, and Irene Who?, has widely been sourced as the piece of writing to identify Kay Francis as having become a bitter recluse following her falling out with Warner Bros. In truth, Kay was identified with being bitter over her Hollywood troubles long before the book was even published; even long before she even passed away.
In the February 1964 issue of Films in Review, an article by James Robert Parish and Gene Ringgold concluded with the following statement, “Since [leaving Hollywood] Kay Francis has divided her time between her New York City apartment and her home on Cape Cod near Falmouth, where she is associated with a summer resort. She grants no interviews, refuses to be photographed, and rarely discusses her stage and screen career. When she does so it is clear she believes she was mistreated in Hollywood.”
When that article was published, Kay was still very much alive (and had sparing communication with Parish, though she refused to discuss her past with him).
In her later years Kay was very close with Lou and Jetti Ames. Lou, who was interested in Hollywood, tried (and failed) to get her to discuss her career. “I always tried to get her to talk about Hollywood because I’m a movie buff,” he told author Scott O’Brien. “She was probably bitter about leaving all of that behind her. I think she showed her attitude by not talking about it.”
Jetti, Lou’s wife, told O’Brien, “By the same token, she didn’t go around with it ‘hanging out.’ She chose not to talk about it. When you talk about her being bitter, it’s important to mention that she didn’t go around stewing about it. Because she didn’t.”
Very rarely, when Kay did reference her troubles in Hollywood, Jetti Ames claimed that Kay referred to it simply as “her big struggle.”
Bob French, a long-time fan who met Kay in 1966 or 1967, mentioned that he also had tried to get Kay to discuss her career. She refused, saying that it was long ago and all so “rotten.”
It appears as though Kay took the “The Chapter is Closed” attitude about her career. Gavin Lambert wrote in his Norma Shearer biography, Norma Shearer: A Life, that Shearer used that saying to discuss with friends why she turned down several comeback offers following her 1942 retirement.
…“The Chapter is Closed.”
Black Chiffon. A play Kay starred in during her later stage career. See the Stage Page for more info.
Blondell, Joan. Actress who hit her peak in the early 1930s at Warner Bros. at the same time Kay was employed at the studio. Blondell’s career on film stretched a bit farther than Kay’s, as she later went into character parts in her later movies.
On April 16, 1935, Blondell was one of the actresses (which included Kay, Marlene Dietrich, Carole Lombard, Anita Louise, Clara Bow, Myrna Loy and Claudette Colbert) who helped open House of Westmore, which was owned (and partially financed by Kay) for Warner Bros. makeup man Perc Westmore.
Bogart, Humphrey. Kay’s costar in 1939’s King of the Underworld. Bogart began his film career with small parts at Warner Bros., later progressing to larger parts in more prestigious productions. When Bogart worked with Kay, he was not a top-notch star. As Kay was given what the New York Times called “a poor second billing”, Bogart was displeased that he was used by Warner Bros. to attack Kay’s stardom, which was already on the decline (BF).
In the 1920s, he and Kay had known each other socially in New York. During the 1940s, Bogart reached the peak of his career at Warner Bros., playing most famously opposite his wife Lauren Bacall.
Bow, Clara. Hollywood’s “It Girl” in the 1920s until sound films came in at the end of the decade. Kay actually had one of her most important vamp roles in Dangerous Curves, Bow’s second sound film. Kay later remembered Bow for her kindness during the film’s production.
Boyer, Charles. The male lead in 1937’s Tovarich, which Kay was desperate to make.
Brent, George. One of Kay’s most frequent leading men. The two appeared in six films together, beginning with 1933’s The Keyhole and ending with 1938’s Secrets of an Actress. Brent had turned down the role which eventually went to Pat O’Brien in Women Are Like That (1938), and he also did star in 1939’s The Rains Came, which was a film Kay was a consideration for in a part which eventually went to Myrna Loy.
The last time Kay worked with Brent was on a 1943 radio production “The Lady is Willing.” Around the same time, Brent was asked to identify the most glamorous women in film; Kay made his list.
At Warner Bros., Brent played opposite nearly all of the top female stars besides Kay, including Barbara Stanwyck and Bette Davis. He was loaned out to MGM to appear opposite Greta Garbo in The Painted Veil (1934).
British Agent. Warner Bros., 1934. Directed by Michael Curtiz. Based on the popular autobiography by R.H. Bruce Lockart. Aside from a small role in that same year’s Wonder Bar, British Agent was Kay’s post prestigious production for Warner Bros. until that point. Costarring Leslie Howard, the film was based on the real-life problems faced by R.H. Lockhart during the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia in 1917.
During production Kay suffered a mysterious injury to her wrist, which was most likely a suicide attempt. She later made up a story she cut her wrist on glass on a window, trying to her into her own home after she locked herself out (PL).
Louis Bromfield. Author of The Rains Came, which was adapted into a 1939 film of the same name that Kay was considered for a leading role. The part went to Myrna Loy.
Brook, Clive. One of Paramount’s most distinguished leading men. He was Kay’s romantic interest in two 1931 films: Scandal Sheet and 24 Hours. One of his best roles was opposite Marlene Dietrich in Shanghai Express (1932).
Bryan, Jane. Plays Kay’s daughter in Confession. When Kay was originally announced to appear in The Sisters, Bryan was also listed in the cast which also included Miriam Hopkins. When the film version came out, Bryan found herself with Bette Davis & Anita Louise.